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Monday, June 30, 2014

Fill in Blank Game IV

Let's try another game this week. I am going to list partial titles and you try to fill in the blanks. All the books are by the same author which is a clue. At the end of the titles, supply who the author of those books was. I will give you a hint that these are not new books - they have been out for a while.

You are on the honor system playing this, try completing this without the aid of the internet.  In a few days I will fill in the blanks and you can post how many you got right in the comments.  I did this in a very low tech sort of way :-)  Here are the answers:

1) Naked Once More

2) A River in the Sky

3) The Mummy Case

4) Borrower of the Night

5) Trojan Gold

6) The Laughter of Dead Kings

7) Lion in the Valley

8) The Murders of Richard III

9) Night Train to Memphis

10) Silhouette in Scarlet

The Author of all these books is Elizabeth Peters


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Monday, June 23, 2014

Happy Summer Solstice

I hope you had a great Summer Solstice (northern hemisphere) this past Saturday.  I know this isn't book or mystery related, but hear me out. 

Everybody has heard the term "Beach read". This time of year we are all looking for a great beach read, something we can take on vacation and isn't too heavy or requires much analysis. We want lighter reading because vacations are for relaxing...and when we are home we are out enjoying the warmer weather, activities and events everywhere.

I have noticed this summer and last that I have a harder time sticking to my schedule and reading. Part of my time is going into container gardening since I live in a town-home. 

This year the weather did not really warm up until the very last week of May, so my Kale is just getting going. The Basil, Catnip, Chives, and Peppermint are all doing well. But I decided today to pick up some flower seeds (Lavender and Zinnias). I was worried that this was too late to hope for much. Then I remembered third grade science class. Yes, I am weird like that. We were experimenting with seeds and what chemicals in fertilizer achieve what result. What I remembered was how we quickly got the seeds to sprout. 

In a plastic cup you fold a paper towel and line the inside of the cup with it.  Sprinkle the seeds between the paper towel and the plastic cup.  Then add a tablespoon or two of water.  The paper towel will absorb the water to keep the seeds wet.  

Some seeds like sunlight, but I am giving a little shade from the sun by loosely wrapping a bit of aluminum foil around the cups.  Although they can be around light. 

I will add just a small amount of liquid fertilizer (why I use plastic because you shouldn't ever drink out of it after this.)  I am hoping to shorten the germination time and get them jump-started.  I can use some florescent lighting as a grow light as well as sunlight, once they sprout, to get them to a size that can be transplanted.  I will let you know how it goes. 

Since I don't have the room for full-blown seedling kits, this is an inexpensive experiment.  Any tips folks?  I know there are many things that can go wrong with this process, including too much water and the seeds rot or don't germinate.

Enjoy the sunshine and share your favorite beach reads so far with us!  

Here is a short video showing essentially the same method only using large seeds.  I discovered this after initially posting.  I found another video that places the wet paper towel with seeds into a sealed plastic sandwich bag and places them in warm spots, which helps speed up germination too.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Review - Ghostly Paws

Leighann Dobbs writes the Blackmoore Sisters romantic cozy mystery series, but this is the debut novel in her new mystery series.  This series adds a splash of paranormal whimsy to the storyline.  As I anticipated reading this book, I expected something along the lines of Heather Blake's Wishcraft mysteries.  

Author: Leighann Dobbs

Copyright: March 2014 (Self Published) 304 pgs

Series: 2st in Mystic Notch Cozy Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Cozy

Main Characters: Wilhelmina Chance, middle-aged ghost whisperer and bookstore owner

Setting: Modern day, Mystic Notch in the White Mountains of New Hampshire

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

Wilhelmina has returned to Mystic Notch after a bad divorce and a worse car accident that has resulted in her being able to see and communicate with ghosts.  She returns for the inheritance her grandmother left her, but gets a second chance as a bonus.  When she discovers the body of the town librarian, Lavinia, she finds herself enlisted by her ghost to unveil the killer who pushed Lavinia down the stairs. In addition, the cats in town seem to congregate and be far more aware than the people of the undercurrent of evil in town, particularly Willa's inherited cat Pandora.  A few chapters are from Pandora's perspective and it added to the story to understand how the cat's are part of the drama.

Wilhelmina, Willa for short, is a fun character with a little spunk and a .  Her best friend Pepper St. Onge mixes magical herbal teas which often back fire.  She is a good side kick to motivate Willa out of her set ways.  Sister Augusta, the sheriff, is the adult in the room.  The morning coffee club that meets at Willa's book store consists of Hattie, Cordelia, Josiah, and Bing who are each a little eccentric.  Elspeth is looking out for the homeless cats and working on a shelter. Lavinia's ghost is often late in communicating vital information.  A nice touch is the bookstore resident ghosts of Robert Frost and Franklin Pierce.  Sheriff Eddie Striker, from neighboring town of Dixford Pass, is the standard policeman romantic interest. I was hoping the romantic element would be more creative since the sister is the sheriff,  but no luck.

Mystic Notch, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, is a very typical small town. I liked how the  residents think"down south" is Massachusetts.  Otherwise the setting was just a backdrop for the story.  The plot was average for a paranormal cozy and was developed nicely.  The pacing was consistent with entertaining antics and investigating.  The killer reveal had a few moments of tension and is dramatically resolved.  The wrap-up leaves a few hints as to Willa's yet undiscovered powers.

While I found some elements to be unimaginative and predictable (bland small town, standard cop romantic interest), there were other elements that sparked interest - such as the town cats and their fight against evil combined with the ghost whisperer and potentially powerful Willa.  Overall it is a fun and entertaining book to kick off a new series.  If you enjoy Heather Blake's "Wishcraft Mysteries", you will enjoy this series.

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

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review - Sketcher in the Rye

I have been following this series since the first book was released. Check out my previous reviews: Sketch a Falling Star - Book 3 (click here), To Sketch a Thief - book 2 (click here), Sketch Me If You Can - book 1 (click here), plus,  I was also honored to interview Sharon Pape (click here).  Next up, we are headed to the rural parts of New York for some dirty competition in the farm and nursery business.

Author: Sharon Pape

Copyright: December 2013 (Penguin/Intermix) 260 pgs

Series: 4th in A Portrait of Crime Mysteries

Sensuality: some kissing

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Private Investigator, Paranormal Cozy

Main Characters: Aurora (Rory) McCain, former police sketch-artist turned PI

Setting: Modern day, Suffolk County New York

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review (NetGalley)

Rory is hired by Harper Farms owner, Gil Harper, to investigate who is leaking business ideas and plans to the competition and sabotaging the farm in various ways that are impacting the profitability of the business.  Before Rory can even make it to her car after being hired, she stumbles onto the dead body of Harper's accountant.  Her job quickly gets expanded to solve the murder too, including to investigate  family members.  Sub-plots include Rory's parents selling the family home which is difficult for Rory, Rory's aunt Helen fixes her up with a wonderful doctor...and Zeke can't get over his 1800s strict dating rules, and ghost-whisperer Eloise is getting messages for Rory--but who on the other side is it and why?

Rory is progressing as a private investigator and controlling her anger flares at her resident ghost, Zeke.  Zeke is also a great side-kick with his law enforcement background, but his 1800s gender-role ideas get old fast when it comes to Rory even kissing a guy.  He still is overprotective of Rory as though a woman can't be a PI without a guy to keep her safe.  Aunt Helene, the over-the-top actress in the family, plays cupid in this book. Leah, Rory friend on the police force, has more of a presence in this story and I enjoy her more and more each time.  Eloise, the elderly mother of a neighbor and ghost-whisperer returns and remains a kooky delight.  Aaron, the pediatrician that Aunt Helen sets Rory up with was ideal-not a cop, fun, and kind.  It will be interesting to see how Rory in a relationship works out while living with the old-fashioned Marshal's ghost.

The story takes place mostly in a rural part of New York in the farming sections.  The plot is on par for a cozy mystery, plenty of suspects in the dysfunctional Harper family.  I have to admit, I did not suspect the killer at all, so that was a surprise. I appreciated that Rory makes it through the climax and danger without Zeke rescuing her (not that he will admit she doesn't need him by her side.)  The wrap-up nicely closes the subplots.  

Another solid cozy mystery with a dash of ghosts, varied and interesting characters, and a sprinkling  of humor.  The paranormal elements consist of ghosts thus far (Zeke's ghost and Eloise communicating with ghosts) but is not presented in a scary or creepy way, rather to flavor the stories.  Well done cozy with an entertaining paranormal element.

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

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Review - The Target

My introduction to this series was with book two, The Hit (click here) and I was very happy that the series continues.  This book delves into North Korea and its prison camps as well as the volatile political atmosphere which provide plenty of fuel for the story.

Author: David Baldacci

Copyright: April 2014 (Grand Central Publishing) 432 pgs

Series: 3rd in Will Robbie - Assassin Thriller series

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Thriller

Main Characters: Wiliam Robie and Jessica Reel, U.S. sanctioned elite assassins

Setting: Modern day, Washington DC and North Korea

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

This book had a lot going on.  The main plot line involves North Korea and a possible opportunity to stop a cruel dictator...but if the plan goes wrong there could be many repercussions.  Agent Jessica Reel has made an enemy in Evan Tucker, the head of the CIA.  Jessica had stopped his close friends, who were ultimately traitors, by  killing them.  Tucker is out for revenge against Reel, so under the guise of preparing her and agent Robie for the North Korean  mission he puts them into the burner box (extreme training environment) with the intent they never leave alive. If they live they are on this sketchy mission that may kill them and potentially start world war III, or see the president impeached.  Additionally, Reel's father, a neo-nazi on death row, is plotting to find her and have her killed.  To add yet more danger to the mix, a North Korean assassin woman, Chung Cha, is on Robie and Reel's trail.  She may be deadlier than both of them combined.

This book was more about Reel than the last one.  She has to face a demon from her past, her father.  Robie takes more of a support role for Reel.  Chung - Cha (Comrade Yie) is a break-out character with complexity and depths that slowly come to the surface. She was raised as a child in Yodok, a prison work camp where families turn on each other to survive. Evan Tucker, director of CIA has made it his mission to make Reel pay for taking his friends down...but how far will he go is the question.  Earl Fontaine, Reel's father, demonstrates the depths of depravity that some sink to as he manipulates and sets his own daughter up. 

The Burner Box training facility is effectively portrayed as an ultimate training exercise, and potentially deadly. N.Korean prison camps of Yodok and Bukchang are so well detailed that you feel the oppression and despair.  The plot is of an elaborate design which I enjoyed, but some might find the story beyond just suspension of disbelief status.  The pacing, for me, was a good mix of action and character development. The climax was a rush and had a stunning twist.  The wrap-up sealed the deal and has me waiting for the next Robie and Reel adventure.

For me, this was another great thriller from Baldacci and character insights resonated with me.   

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

Here is an interview with Mr. Baldacci about this book.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Agatha and Edgar Winners 2014 announced

There were not enough submissions for the blog carnival this month, and mostly from one blogger.  Let's dig deep for next month's blog carnival please.  It is hard to create community on this vast web, but blog carnivals are one way we can support each other.  Join me and submit your mystery/suspense/crime fiction book reviews and author interviews anytime (click here).

If your 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.

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Authors Daniel Stashower (Best Fact Crime Edgar and Best Nonfiction Agatha Award winner), Carolyn Hart (MWA Grand Master), and Hank Phillippi Ryan (Best Contemporary Novel Agatha Award winner) at the Agatha Awards.
2014 Edgar Award winners

Best Novel
Ordinary Grace, William Kent Krueger (Atria Books)

Best First Novel
Red Sparrow, Jason Matthews (Scribner)

Best Paperback Original
The Wicked Girls, Alex Marwood (Penguin)

Best Fact Crime
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War, Daniel Stashower (Minotaur)

Best Critical/Bio
America is Elsewhere: The Noir Tradition in the Age of Consumer Culture, Erik Dussere (Oxford Univ.)

Best Short Story
"The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository," John Connolly, in Bibliomysteries (Mysterious Bookshop)

Best Juvenile
One Came Home, Amy Timberlake (Alfred A Knopf BFYR)

Best Young Adult
Ketchup Clouds, Annabel Pitcher (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Best TV Episode
"Episode 1" The Fall, teleplay Allan Cubbitt (Netflix)

Mary Higgins Clark Award
Cover of Snow, Jenny Milchman (Ballantine Books)

2014 Agatha Award Winners

Best Contemporary Novel
The Wrong Girl, Hank Phillippi Ryan  (Forge)

Best First Novel
Death Al Dente, Leslie Budewitz (Berkley Prime Crime)

Best Historical Novel
A Question of Honor, Charles Todd (William Morrow)

Best Children's/YA
Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library, Chris Grabenstein (Random House)

Best Nonfiction
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War, Daniel Stashower (Minotaur)

Best Short Story
"The Care and Feeding of House Plants" in EQQM, Art Taylor 

*Thank you to Mystery Scene Magazine for supplying the winners list and the photo that I used here.

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