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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review - Feta Attraction

An early review for this new series claims "The feel of "Murder She Wrote" with the modern swing and excitement of "Castle."  That is quite a claim!  I'm don't think I would characterize it that way.  Find out more about this new Greek restaurant themed cozy mystery.

Author: Susannah Hardy

Copyright: January 2015 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Greek to Me Mystery series

Sensuality: mild kissing, unhappy marriage situation

Mystery Sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Georgie Nikolopatos, manager of the historic Bonaparte House Restaurant

Setting: modern day, Bonaparte Bay in upstate New York

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Georgie's husband, Spiro, has been MIA for days, which he does from time-to-time. Thus, Georgie is busy running the Greek restaurant her husband and his mother co-own. She also has to coordinate with the crew of the TV show Ghost Squad, who received a tip from Spiro their restaurant/house is haunted. She and her mother-in-law need to clear out for the night so the Ghost Squad crew can have the house overnight to themselves, but what was supposed to be a pleasant evening at a spa retreat ends up with Georgie discovering the body of rival restaurant owner Domenic “Big Dom” DiTomasso floating in the water. 

Spiro's continued absence becomes a matter of concern when Georgie gets a ransom demand to deliver the rumored long lost Bonaparte treasure if she ever wants to see him again. To top it all off, the police investigating Big Dom's murder clearly suspect Georgie, and now she has a hunky Naval officer investigating too. It’s up to her to find her missing husband and determine who killed Big Dom before this bad situation gets worse.

Georgie is married to a gay man while living and working in a historic home turned restaurant with her mother in law, but she is ready to change her life. She is an older than usual character with a grown daughter and has the foundation to be a great character. But she placed herself in danger too many times when clearly it was illogical. Sophie, her mother-in-law, is one of those family members with double standards for her son versus for her daughter-in-law but is nonetheless a spirited and kind lady. Inky, the flamboyant tattoo artist that husband Spiro has feelings for, is a quirky and fun character. Navy Captain Jack sounds like Lieutenant Commander "Harm" Rabb from the TV show JAG to me and his character was the breakout performance of the book.

Bonaparte Bay is the epitome of a small town where gossip runs rampant and is the town sport. A nice job was done with creating a real sense of the town with the history of Napoleon's brother and the Pirate days festivities. The location became vital to the entire story and that is a feature that I particularly enjoy in a novel. Kudos.

The plot hinged on the rumor of a treasure awaiting Napoleon in the house that was reportedly built for him by his brother in the event of a successful escape from Elba. The house has long been the restaurant/family home and Spiro's disappearance is tied to a desperate person insisting on the treasure. Who doesn't love a treasure hunt story? Napoleon's mythic fall and very real supporters who tried to break him out of exile are great to fuel the imagination. The pacing maintained a good clip, but I do have to mention a loose end with Spiro never getting any real consequences for some actions of his. That was a fly in the ointment for me.

Another point I must mention is the humor. The book has some quite funny scenes, but I felt the humorous situations resulted from uncharacteristic behavior to accomplish the laughs. I can't give details without some spoilers, so I will leave it at that.

The climax had a bit of suspense and daring action, which I always prefer. The wrap-up leaves some tantalizing hints for the next book.

Ratings: Good - A fun read with minor flaws that cozy fans will likely enjoy.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Mystery Bingo

Today I am provided a Bingo card you can use while reading mystery books.  A little something to have fun while recognizing the current trends of the mystery genre.

click on image, save the larger image to reuse

Let me give a little introduction to the Bingo Card.  In order to develop a Bingo card, I thought of the current trends of the genre.  Cliches, or tropes, are commonly used literary devises or motifs in creative works.  There are good and bad in such tropes.  
     Genre novels provide the reader with an experience we have come to expect for that category, thus certain cliches develop.  A cozy mystery has certain conventions to follow as opposed to a police procedural novel, and this ensures we, the reader, know what to expect when we pick up the book.  

     Some of these conventions have bred a pattern of certain aspects of the novel we can count on to be present in the story.  It is with these developed patterns that the mystery bingo can be used.  I am not making a judgement, it isn't a good or bad idea to fall within these patterns, so long as the book is entertaining! 

     But, these patterns provided enough common elements to fill the squares to the bingo card.  This particular bingo card is geared more towards the cozy mystery conventions we see today, so it won't work quite as well with thrillers or police procedurals.  But, you can investigate how many of your books fill the squares and before you know it....BINGO.

     Just a refresher of some bingo patterns to fill the squares to call a winner:  A horizontal line, a vertical line, a diagonal line, a diamond, four corners small or big, a square frame, or a blackout covering the whole card.  For a list of many patterns I found this website (click here).  But decide on the pattern before you begin playing, no cheating :-)  

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review - Who Buries the Dead

Today I review the newest in the Sebastian St. Cyr historical mysteries.  Previously I reviewed "Why Kings Confess" (click here), "What Darkness Brings" (click here), "When Maidens Mourn" (click here), and "Where Shadows Dance" (click here).  We were also honored to interview C.S. Harris (click here.)  So how is the series doing now that we are into the tenth book?  Let's find out.

Author: C.S. Harris

Copyright: March 2015 (Obsidian) 352 pgs

Series: 10th in Sebastian St. Cyr Regency Mysteries

Sensuality: mild romance, some clinical discussion of mutilation-not too graphic.

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Suspense

Main Character: Sebastian St. Cyr (Viscount Devlin) a veteran of the Peninsula wars with Napoleon and a nobleman. 

Setting: 1813 London England

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Sebastian is called to assist/consult on a disturbing beheading of Stanley Preston, a quarrelsome Jamaican plantation owner who strives to climb the London social ladder and collects royal memorabilia (including a few heads). Somehow Preston's morbid hobby and his death are likely connected since a piece of King Charles' coffin strap is found at the murder, as well as his ties to Jamaica figure prominently.  Complicating matters is the return from Jamaica of Sebastian's old army commander, Lord Sinclair Oliphant, who engineered the slaughter of an orphanage run by nuns during the war.  An event which still fuels horrible nightmares for Sebastian, and has kept a vow alive to see Oliphant pay for the war crime.  The suspects begin to pile up as the victim's last few days are found to be chock full of explosive arguments with several people from curiosity sellers to prominent society members.  Shortly more beheaded corpses are popping up along with attempts on Sebastian's life.  Meanwhile, Sebastian and Hero both realize that they have much more to loose, as they are now emotionally invested in one another as their love deepens.

Sebastian is a Regency action hero, but this addition to the series delves more into his growth emotionally.  Sebastian's character is deepening and gaining more layers, which makes him even more charismatic.  Hero, my favorite of the novels, has taken a bit of a back seat with motherhood, but has become more of Sebastian's confident and sounding board.  I long for more stories where she can shine.  Jane Austen is woven into this story as an associate of the victim's family.  Jane's character is delightful and the references to London society caught up in her books to where people are categorized by being a "Colonel Brandon" or a "Willoughby" provides a light humorous touch.  Paul Gibson has a few small scenes as he is fighting his own inner demons that are debilitating him.  Lord Sinclair Oliphant, Sebastian's nemesis, is an example of a wealthy man with no moral code.  Jamie Knox, the mysterious tavern owner that suspiciously looks like Sebastian, has a few critical scenes in the story.  Lord Jarvis, Hero's father, demonstrates just how dangerous he is when his daughter is endangered in this installment.

As always, Ms. Harris displays London with a vibrant brush, exposing its beauty and its grim and harsh sides, and it's rich and it's dirt poor with equal dexterity.  The plot delves into two areas, Jamaican slave plantation ownership and the raiding of tombs (even royal tombs) for profit.  These are woven into the plot believably and provide period details as well as motives for murder.  The pacing moved along with the aid of heightened danger between the questioning of suspects.  The climax isn't in the form of a killer confrontation, but is nonetheless suspenseful.  The resolution provides a chilling end in one aspect and a chance at peace in another.

Ms. Harris takes Sebastian and Hero on another thrilling ride providing personal peril against a backdrop of cold amoral people with their own hidden agendas and shocking secrets under a thin veneer of blue blood society.  The characters continue to develop, the plots are multi-layered, and Regency London is faithfully portrayed.

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

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Guest Post - Kate Carlisle

I reviewed the debut book of the new Kate Carlisle Fixer-Upper series, A High End Finish (click here), and the second book This Old Homicide (click here) and we were honored to have a guest post from the author (click here).  Ms. Carlisle is back to share another guest post with us.

Sunken Treasure: Finders Keepers?

Kate Carlisle is the author of the Fixer-Upper Mysteries, featuring Victorian restoration expert Shannon Hammer. The first book in the series, A High-End Finish, debuted at #9 on the New York Times bestsellers list. This Old Homicide, Fixer-Upper Mystery 2, is available now wherever books and ebooks are sold.

Off the coast near Lighthouse Cove, California, a clipper ship went down in 1839. The Glorious Maiden transported precious cargo and wealthy passengers along the Western American coast. Rumors suggest that a Spanish princess went down with that ship and, with her, a fortune in gold and jewels.

What if, while snorkeling one day, you found a piece of jewelry that could pay off your mortgage and pay for your kids’ college education? Would you report your find, or would you quietly try to sell the piece for as much money as you could? Who would you trust?

There are approximately 65,000 shipwrecks logged into the North American Shipwrecks Database. Sixty-five-oh-oh-OH. Kind of makes a person want to take up diving.

But if you find treasure, is it yours to keep?

In 2012, a Florida salvage company had to return $500 million in sunken treasure to the government of Spain, without compensation. Just last year, courts ruled that a California couple would have to pay approximately 47% in state and federal income tax on the $10 million of gold coins they found buried in their own yard—private property—whether or not they decided to sell the coins.

The Glorious Maiden is fictional. For that matter, so is Lighthouse Cove, the setting of This Old Homicide, the second book of my Fixer-Upper Mysteries series. The series features Victorian home restoration expert Shannon Hammer, owner of Hammer Construction.

It’s a fun question to contemplate, isn’t it? What would you do if you found a treasure?

In This Old Homicide, Shannon’s neighbor, a retired navy

SEAL, claimed that he found a necklace while diving near the Glorious Maiden, but Jesse has claimed a lot of things, few of them true. His tall tales kept getting taller so that, by the time he bragged about the necklace, no one believed him.

Or perhaps someone did, Shannon will think… on the day she discovers him dead.

Do you think it’s fair that if someone finds a treasure, they have to pay income taxes on it? If you found a treasure worth millions of dollars, what would you do? Would you try to hide it from the authorities? Why or why not?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

THANK You Ms. Carlisle for those great questions.  I am not sure what I would do if I found a treasure...although considering historical value and a museum would be my first inclination I think.

What about you, dear readers?

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Review - This Old Homicide

This is only the second in a new series.   I reviewed the debut book of the series, A High End Finish (click here) and we were honored to have a guest post from the author (click here).  This time we have a legendary ship wreck and treasure to bring murder to a small town.

Author: Kate Carlisle

Copyright: January 2015 (Signet) 336 pgs

Series: 2nd in Fixer-Upper Mystery series

Sensuality: kissing

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery

Main Character: Shannon Hammer, owner of restoration/renovation construction business

Setting: Modern day, Lighthouse Cove California (near San Francisco)

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Shannon is just going about her business, when she realizes her next door neighbor, the uncle of her BFF Jane, hasn't been seen around town.  Worried about him, she checks in next door...and finds him dead and his home ransacked.  The next few days reveal it is a suspicious death and Jesse, a former Navy Seal, had claimed to have found an antique jeweled necklace scuba-diving around a famous shipwreck off the shore of Lighthouse Cover.  Most people thought it was another of Jesse's tall tales, but could somebody be looking for the necklace and Jesse got in the way?  Shannon is once again in the middle of a murder investigation as she realizes somebody keeps sneaking into Jesse's house looking for something, and she is doing her best to help the police catch who may have killed Jesse under the guise of a heart attack. She begins a list of suspects and adds more as she uncovers information. Then there is another suspicious death.

Shanon maintains the strong and spunky persona in this addition, but adds determination to the list, and indecisive between the two men who like her.  She can be suspicious and naive in turns.  Jane, her BFF, is overwhelmed with her uncle's suspicious death and the grand opening of her new BandB.  She reveals her vulnerability.  Chief of Police Eric Jensen is settling into small town life, but still has little tolerance for Shannon's help but is also strung along as a potential romantic interest.  Crime Writer MacKintyre Sullivan is kind-of dating Shannon and lends his support in trying to catch whoever continues to vandalize Jesse's house, kudos there.  Lizzie, Marigold, and Emily are her closest friends along with Jane.  They pitch in to assist their talents too.   Whitney Reid has been Shannon's arch nemesis most of her life and has a few scenes where she is really horrible.  Deputy Tommy, the high school sweetheart of Shannon, is married to Whitney and seems oblivious to how mean-spirited his wife is...which I have a hard time with.  I keep waiting for him to grasp how black-hearted she is and file for divorce...but no, which makes me think he can't be all that nice himself then.

Lighthouse Cove California is a standard ocean-side town, but is set apart in this book by the legendary shipwreck of the Glorious Maiden clipper ship with a Spanish Princess aboard.  The plot is simple and straight forward with a few well placed red herrings to mislead.  The pacing maintained a good clip to keep interest.  The climax was suspenseful and tense, managing to rival the climax in the debut and promising to be a staple for the series. 

Ms. Carlisle has departed from the Bibliophile Mysteries to give us a another great heroine with interesting plots and gripping climaxes, essentially raising the bar for the cozy mystery.

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

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Guest Post - Amanda Carmack

If you have been following M&MM for very long, you know I enjoy historical mysteries and this series in particular.  You can read my reviews of each book in the Elizabethan Mystery series here: #1 Murder at Hatfield House (click here), #2 Murder at Westminster Abbey (click here), #3 Murder in the Queen's Garden (click here) plus a guest post by the author (click here).  Amanda is our guest once again and she shares about her love of the Elizabethan period.  Please welcome Ms. Carmack in the comments.

A Few of My Favorite Things

 I've been fascinated by the Elizabethan age for as long as I can remember! When I was a kid, I would read everything I could find about the period—romance novels, thick history books I could barely lift off the library shelf, Shakespeare plays, and bawdy poetry I couldn't really figure out, but I liked the weird words such as “fie, away, sir!” and “z'wounds!” I dressed up as Anne Boleyn for a fifth grade book report, and spent days watching videos like The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth R.

That's what I love the most about writing the adventures of Kate Haywood—getting to live at the court of Queen Elizabeth, losing myself in that world and seeing through Kate's eyes, but then returning to my cozy house with running water and electricity! (I do love the 16th century, but not really enough to want an open sewer running down the middle of my street, or cooking a roast over and open fire while trying not to set my petticoats on fire...)

Kate is a young lady with many interests. She is the queen's favorite musician, a performer and composer, as well as the catcher of villains who try to harm the new queen. She finds herself in the very midst of all the excitement of the day, and in vicariously living her life I get to be there, too. A bit like the archaeologist I wanted to be when I was a kid, before I realized how dusty the job would be!

So—what are some of my favorite things about Queen Elizabeth and her world?

1) There were so many strong, fascinating women in charge! Not just Elizabeth herself (who overcame a lonely, dangerous upbringing to become the most famous monarch in English history), but her mother and stepmothers, Mary Queen of Scots and her mother Marie of Guise, Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers, and so many others)

2) The wondrous explosion of the creative arts, especially theater, music, and poetry (Shakespeare, Marlowe, Sidney, Spencer, to name just a few)

3) The Age of Exploration. Men willing to pack themselves into tiny wooden boxes and launch across the oceans to find lands that might or might not be out there. That's amazing to a homebody like me!

4) The advances in science and medicine

5) And, because I am a girly-girl, the clothes! This isn't the era whose fashions I would most want to wear myself (that would be the Regency—high waists and lighter corsets!), but the fashions of the Elizabethan era are so fascinatingly elaborate, with lovely fabrics and colors, intricate embroidery and lace ruffs. (for a closer look, Janet Arnold's wonderful Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe Unlock'd is a great source)

6) The architecture. Places like Hardwick Hall and Hampton Court, and Nonsuch Palace (which is gone now, but which Kate gets to explore in Murder in the Queen's Garden!) are amazing settings for royal shenanigans!

For more “behind the book” info on Kate Haywood and her adventures, you can visit my website at! I'm also on Facebook and spend way too much time on Pinterest.

What is your favorite time period? Where would you visit if you had a time machine??? 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Thank you so much Ms. Carmack for visiting us and sharing your love of the Elizabethan era.  I must confess, I didn't have a favorite era, but Queen Elizabeth I has captured my interest since reading The King's Deception by Steve Berry and your books.  She was unique and that makes her fascinating.

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Review - Murder in the Queen's Garden

I have been noticing my reviews are quoted in books coming out and I have forgotten to mention it.  This book has two of my reviews referenced in the first pages!  Yay :-)  

Read the full reviews here: #1 Murder at Hatfield House (click here), and #2 Murder at Westminster Abbey (click here), plus a guest post by the author (click here).  Let's see what this addition to the series has in store for us!

Author: Amanda Carmack

Copyright: February 2015 (Signet) 304 pgs

Series: 3rd in Elizabethan Mystery series

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Mystery

Main Characters: Kate Haywood, 18 year old musician in the employ of newly crowned Queen Elizabeth I

Setting: 1559, Nonsuch Palace in Surrey, England

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Queen Elizabeth has been Queen for six months, most of which she has been traveling England.  For the next few weeks the Queen and her large entourage of servants and advisers will stay at Nonsuch Palace, the building that her father, Henry VIII, built for one of his ill-fated wives.  It is also the place where, during Henry
VIII's time, Dr. Macey was a trusted court astrologer who mysteriously disappeared and the rumors persist that he was killed for doing the Queen's horoscope. The apprentice of Dr. Macey, Dr. John Dee, is now Elizabeth's favorite astrologer and everyone at court is having there birth charts done.  But Kate and Robert Dudley don't trust Dr. Dee's apprentice as he has been lurking the halls. During a run of the garden maze for afternoon entertainment, a skeleton is discovered and is revealed as the long lost Dr. Macey.  Shortly, there is another death and once again the Queen turns to Kate to quietly ask around.  Kate feels tremendous loyalty to Elizabeth and once again makes shrewd observations of the motivations behind the courtly manners. She finds herself in danger yet again as she unravels who is the murderer among them.

Subplots are Kate's mother's lineage presenting the possibility she is distantly royal and what that means in her current situation.  Plus, Rob Cartman is serious about pursuing Kate as they are well suited and he seems smitten with her.  Meanwhile, Anthony is hoping to start his own law firm soon and hopes to provide a home for Kate. But what does Kate want?

Kate Haywood is still compassionate, but she has grown a bit more worldly wise and less trusting by this book.  She finds herself suspecting everybody of keeping secrets and lying among the Court.  Rob Cartman brings his traveling entertainment troupe in hopes of getting a permanent sponsor.  Rob is a scoundrel with a good heart.  Hard working Anthony Elias winds up visiting on business for a legal client and takes a few opportunities to assist Kate. Robert Dudley is a historical figure used in the story who really was Elizabeth's favored who oversaw her security, and was her regular dance partner.  Astrologer Dr. John Dee is another historical figure in the story.  It is a challenge to use historical figures in a story, but these are handled very well along with Queen Elizabeth.

Nonsuch Palace (because there was none other like it) was a Tudor royal palace, built by Henry VIII in Surrey, England; it stood from 1538 to 1682–3.  The palace is used in the story to provide delicious Gothic touches giving it a cursed or haunted feel since Henry leveled the existing town to make way for his palace and once it was completed he was married to his fifth wife Catherine Howard, who he beheaded before two full years together.  Her fate hangs over the story along with the disappearance/death of Dr. Macey.

The plot has a good murder mystery with the never-ending danger of a scheme to eliminate Elizabeth, which was a lurking real threat at the time.  I felt the pacing was even throughout and kept moving.  The climax had some good chases and confrontations with an impressive villain resolution that burns in the mind.  The ending clears the path for the next adventure and I already am anticipating the next book.

Miss Carmack has delivered yet another engrossing murder mystery with misdirecting plot twists and sensitive character portrayals that brings history alive and delivers the dangers of royal court life.  Bravo.

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list, if you haven't already.

Here is a model recreation of the Nonsuch Palace, considered small for a royal residence.

Purchase your copy of "Create Your Shining Year Workbook, Planner, and Calendar" while they are available (click here).  I think you will find this a creative way to make 2015 a great year.  

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Monday, February 2, 2015

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - January 2015

It is the first Monday of the month and time for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival.  Click on the title or author's name to go to that link.

Police Procedural / PI Book Review / Legal

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and shares "This is the beginning of the Veronica Mars franchise living on in books."

Carstairs Considers reviewed The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

Booking Mama reviewed To Dwell in Darkness by Deborah Crombie

Kings River Life Magazine reviewed Die Again by Tess Gerritsen

Booking Mama reviewed Asylum City by Liad Shoham and shares "It is classified as a murder mystery and is fast paced with several engaging characters; but it is much more."


Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

Carstairs Considers reviewed Ghost in the Guacamole by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Debbie's Book Bag reviewed You Cannoli Die Once by Shelley Costa sharing "wit and humor take center stage"

Carstairs Considers reviewed Feta Attraction by Susannah Hardy

Debbie's Book Bag reviewed Basil Instinct by Shelley Costa

Carstairs Considers reviewed For Whom the Bluebell Tolls by Beverly Allen

Kings River Life Magazine reviewed The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian

Debbie's Book Bag reviewed Death with All the Trimmings by Lucy Burdette

Carstairs Considers reviewed Scene of the Climb by Kate Dyer-Seeley

Thriller/Suspense /Intrigue Book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed XO by Jeffery Deaver and shares "Deaver's take on a celebrity stalker produces a devious villain pitted against a dogged CBI agent."

Booking Mama reviewed I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Mystery Author Carmen Amato reviewed Smokescreen by Khales Talib

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Slow Horses by Mick Herron and shares it "delivers spies who are neither slick nor sauve."

Booking Mama reviewed The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and shares "I know this book will be one of my favorite reads for 2015!"

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed The Prime Minister's Secret Agent by Susan Elia MacNeal and shares "the reader is drawn into the drama of the approaching Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor."

Author Interview

Cozy Chicks has a guest post by Duffy Brown, cozy author "Who's Got Your Back?"

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A huge "THANK YOU" to all the wonderful bloggers who contributed to the carnival.  Keep them coming and let's keep this carnival going. 

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

Spread the word far and wide!!!

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

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