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Monday, February 27, 2017

Review - A Dark and Stormy Murder

It took a few months to get to this book in the TBR pile.  But the concept of a Gothic cozy mystery was so compelling, I finally made the time to read it.  Find out if Gothic works in a cozy in the review.  Julia Buckley is also the author of the UnderCover Dish Mystery series.  She did us the honor of a guest author post (click here) where she shared her love of gothic suspense author Mary Stewart.

Author: Julia Buckley

Copyright: July 2016 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Writer's Apprentice Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Lena London, new writing assistant to a best-selling author

Setting: Modern day, Blue Lake Indiana

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

From the book cover: "Lena London's literary dreams are coming true—as long as she can avoid any real-life villains...
Camilla Graham’s bestselling suspense novels inspired Lena London to become a writer, so when she lands a job as Camilla’s new assistant, she can’t believe her luck. Not only will she help her idol craft an enchanting new mystery, she’ll get to live rent-free in Camilla’s gorgeous Victorian home (Graham House) in the quaint town of Blue Lake, Indiana.
But Lena’s fortune soon changes for the worse. First, she lands in the center of small town gossip for befriending the local recluse. Then, she stumbles across one thing that a Camilla Graham novel is never without—a dead body, found on her new boss’s lakefront property.
Now Lena must take a page out of one of Camilla’s books to hunt down clues in a real crime that seems to be connected to the novelist’s mysterious estate—before the killer writes them both out of the story for good."

Lena makes friends really easily. Within a few hours of arriving in Blue Lake for her new job she strikes up a friendship with a surly neighbor the majority of people in town are leary of since he is still a prime suspect in the disappearance of his wife - and a scattered young woman with two children in tow.  She is intelligent yet can fly into tangents of shear emotion.  Best-selling author Camilla is a delight and a star in the book. BFF Allison seems like a great person, but I would like a bit more of her character.  

Sam West is an slightly older man with a dark cloud of suspicion that he killed is "missing" wife.  **Spoiler: I find Lena's nearly instant interest in and defense of him, and he in her, a bit creepy considering his wife's suspicious disappearance. **End Spoiler.  Policeman Doug Heller who takes his job very seriously and is the popular guy with blonde good looks tries to impress Lena. Adam Rayburn runs the one upscale restaurant, Wheat Grass, and seems interested in Camilla.  I have to mention the animals: Lena's cat Lestrade and Camilla's German Sheperds Rochester and Heathcliff are great!

Blue Lake is an ideal setting and Graham house has a few locals who swear it holds a secret - they evoke the gothic atmosphere.  The main plot has it's own complexities, but the subplots of Graham House's secret and Sam's wife's disappearance cast long shadows and add great layers.  Pacing kept the interest up.  

You know I like the hair raising tense killer reveals, and this book delivered.  Great job there.  The wrap up leaves a pretty big sub-plot cliff hanger so you are on the edge of your seat for the next book.

I loved this Gothic cozy in many ways, but there was the blemish I mentioned in the spoiler, plus Lena has an incredibly childish moment and throws food at the police for doing their jobs.  Those are the down side.  The up side is a successfully atmospheric tale with a substantial mystery and otherwise well done characters.  I down right loved parts. I will definitely be looking for the next book in this new series.  
Rating: Excellent - Loved it, it had a good grip on me inspite of some minor issues! 

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Purchase some wine here and a portion goes to the cat rescue I support - win-win!
We have several to choose from: 
Cabernet Sauvignon  
Carmenere and  
Sauvignon Blanc  

  Each bottle features one of our sweet furry angels on the label.  This is a great gift idea for family, friends and co-workers! All of the wines are made with certified organic grapes and are vegan friendly.  They are nice Chilean wines, I have tasted most of them!  The shelter gets a good percentage of each bottle sold, so buy a bottle now.

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For the wine timid, get a copy of The Little Wine Guide.

This jam-packed little book removes the mystery and makes savoring a fine wine fun. Learn the lingo fast through an overview of wine to get you on your feet pronto. Learn about the basic wine types to planning your own wine tasting, the intricacies of restaurant presentation etiquette to an overview of wine in America to assist you on your personal wine journey! Understand your unique taste preferences and what interests you in the world of wine from blogs, movies, documentaries, magazines or books on the people of the wine world.

Kerrianne (Goodreads) 5 star
"Great and compact intro into the world of wine. Can't wait to tour some local wineries with my new found knowledge. So happy I was able to win this through a Goodreads Giveaway!"

Cynthia Calongne- 5 star
"What a great book - fun content, well-organized and easy to read and digest!" 

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Review - A Wee Homicide in the Hotel

Here is the newest in the ScotShop mystery series.  I reviewed #1 Wee Murder In My Shop (click here),
 #2 A Wee Dose of Death (click here), and I was tickled to have the author provide three guest posts (click here) , 2nd (click here), and 3rd (click here).  We are up to the third entry in the series and I review it below.

Author: Fran Stewart

Copyright: February 2017 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 3rd in ScotShop Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy with lite paranormal elements

Main Characters: Peggy Winn, owner of a Scottish-themed shop

Setting: Modern day, Hameline Maine

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

From the cover: "Hamelin is overflowing with tourists enjoying the Scottish-themed games—and most of them are donning tartans from Peggy Winn’s ScotShop. And her fourteenth-century ghostly companion, Dirk, has been indispensable, keeping an eye out for shoplifters and matching customers’ family names to their clan plaid.

Adding to the chaos is Big Willie, a longtime champion of the games, but not everyone is happy to have him in town. So when he misses the first event of the weekend, Peggy senses something is awry. After Willie is discovered dead in his hotel room, the victim of a bagpipe-related crime, Peggy decides it’s up to her and Dirk to suss out a murderer."  The FBI are also in town because of some surprise high profile political visitors to the Scottish games.  This is a good subplot too.

Peggy is an entrepreneur and long suffering with seemingly non-stop questions from a ghost usually when she shouldn't answer because of people around. Dirk (full name Macbeth Donlevy Freusach Macearacher Macpheidiran of clan Farquharson) is a man out of time and has mellowed a touch from prior book.  BFF Karaline Logg is involved more with a subplot for her character.  Twin Brother Drew makes an appearance as part of the subplot.  Police Captain Harper really needs to take Peggy on several dates before he starts thinking of marriage...and learn to actually talk, really talk, with her.

The setting of the Scottish Festival with the competitions and bagpipers was delightful and a great touch. There is plenty going on in this between the FBI in town, the games, Big Willie, and some minor characters developed, so the pacing moves along and keeps the interest.  The climax did not disappoint and the wrap up was satisfying.  

I liked the development of the subplots that truly layered the story.  I still have issues with Dirk asking insistent questions that Peggy answers around people making her look like she's bonkers.  I don't find that amusing as I suspect is intended.  Dirk has toned down his superior "know-it-all" attitude a little, which helps.  This is a lite generally enjoyable romp with everything Scottish including hunky kilt-wearing guys and lots of clan tartans.

Rating:  Good - A fun read.

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Tipsy Laird Recipe – A Great Scottish Trifle

4 large egg yolks
1/4 c sugar
2 c scalded milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 pkg ladyfingers
  apricot jam
1/2 c whiskey
  toasted almonds
  whipped cream, sweetened


- Beat yolks and stir in sugar and salt.

- Stir Milk in gradually and cook over hot water, stir constantly until mixture coats spoon. Chill, flavor with vanilla

- Split the Lady Fingers and spread with Jam. Put a layer in glass bowl and pour whiskey over it. Let cake soak up Liquor. Cover with 1/2 of custard. Repeat layer of lady fingers sprinkled with whiskey and pour custard.

- Repeat steps for all layers until you reach the top of your dish finishing with the pudding layer.

- Next whip the heavy cream, add sugar to sweeten and spoon on top of the last layer of custard. Decorate the top with toasted almonds.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Guest Author Post - Fran Stewart

Please welcome Fran Stewart to our blog.  This is her third visit with us (click here and here).  When she's not mowing or writing, Fran Stewart enjoys singing, knitting, reading (of course), and volunteering in her grandchildren’s school library. 

Author of fourteen books, including the Biscuit McKee mystery series and the ScotShop mysteries, as well as A SLAYING SONG TONIGHT and FROM THE TIP OF MY PEN: a workbook for writers, she lives quietly beside a creek on the other side of Hog Mountain, Georgia, after having moved repeatedly from her birth through her fourth decade. The small fictional towns she writes about embody the hometown she always wanted—except for the murders.

“Moving Slowly Through Life”

One of the advantages of a cozy mystery is the sure-footed pace, compared to a thriller’s almost non-stop suspense. Oh, there’s still room for plenty of suspenseful moments in a cozy, but they’re couched differently than the more robust action of thrillers.

Rather like the different types of lawnmowers.

One of the loveliest sounds from my childhood was the snip, snip, snip of the lawnmower as my dad tooled around the yard on a Sunday afternoon behind our reel lawnmower. The kind you push. The kind you don’t have to turn on. The kind that doesn’t take gas or electricity. The kind I have sitting in my garage. A reel lawnmower is a cozy kind of mower. Today’s power mowers, riding mowers, and even robotic mowers lean more heavily toward the other type.

There’s a “reel” adventure to mowing my yard. I don’t have to wear earplugs, which means I can hear the squirrels scolding me for getting near "their" birdseed at the bottom of the feeder. I can easily pause to say hello when neighbors out for a walk circle around to the bottom of my cul-de-sac.

I don’t ever have to worry about chopping my foot off if I stumble, just as with a cozy mystery I don’t have to worry about nightmares involving blood and gore.

I can hear the rustling as a neighbor’s cat bursts from underneath the Vinca (which is in danger of taking over the whole yard) and heads over toward one of the oak leaf hydrangeas to hide underneath its massive leaves until I leave the vicinity. I never have to worry that my mower will throw a rock against a neighbor’s child (or car, or cat).

I can hear the wind blowing through the trees above me. I can hear the birds who have learned over the years that mowing time does not mean the end of feeding time. They keep right on zooming in to snatch seed from the many feeders.

Of course, I stop frequently to unstick pines cones that get
wedged in the reel. If I’d take the time to rake the yard free of pinecones before I start mowing, I wouldn’t have to do the un-wedging so often, but that’s okay. When I’m bending down for a cone, I get to look closer at the native red clover to see if any bumblebees have found it yet.

Raking the yard would, now that I think about it, be rather like editing a manuscript. Getting rid of the sticky words, phrases, scenes so the mystery will flow more smoothly. I do that with my writing. I just don’t ever think about it when it comes around to mowing time.

Have you ever had the pleasure of pushing a reel mower? No? Would you like to try? Drop by my house sometime this summer and give it a whirl. I’ll sit on my front porch with a glass of lemonade and watch you have fun.
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THANK You Ms. Stewart for a glimpse into your yard and old school smell-the-flowers mowing style.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Review - Blown Away

It is already the middle of February!!  Time is flying.  Trying to keep up with my reviews...and catch up a little even.  

This is the first book in a new series featuring a kite shop in a beach town.  The author provided a teaser (click here.)  Check out my review and see if this grabs to interest.

Author: Clover Tate

Copyright: Feb 2016 (Berkley) 298 pgs

Series: 1st in Kite Shop Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Character: Emmy Adler owner of Strings Attached kite shop

Setting: Modern day, Rock Point Oregon

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

From the cover: "Emmy is finally living her dream. She’s moved to the coastal town of Rock Point, Oregon, and is starting a kite business. Strings Attached features her own unique designs, inspired by everything from Picasso to Matisse’s colorful cutouts. Her spirits are soaring sky-high the morning of the grand opening—until she stumbles upon a dead man washed up on the beach. 

The body belongs to local chef Miles Logan, and the gash across his chest indicates he’s been murdered. The sheriff suspects Emmy’s best friend, Avery, who used to date the chef.  Emmy is sure Avery would never hurt anyone, but her pal doesn’t have an alibi for the night of the murder. With Avery’s freedom and the fate of her kite shop up in the air, Emmy takes it upon herself to follow the string of clues and solve the murder before the real killer takes flight."

Emmy Adler is stubborn and bit reckless in seeking to clear Avery's name.  She manages to get it wrong a few times too.  Avery Cook, the best friend suspected of murder is so depressed or something that not much can be said about her.  I hope the next book will have the character come alive.  Sherriff Nick Koppen is all kinds of patient with Emmy.  Jack Sullivan, owns the only other kite shop in town clearly likes Emmy and wants to find out who killed his friend Miles too.  Stella Hart is a retired school teacher and new part time employee of Emmy's.  She is the breakout character that I really will be seeking out the next book.

Rock Point seems like the idyllic beach town with a fantastic uncrowded beach, yet plenty of paying visitors and residents to support two kite shops.  Rock Point, with its restaurant Tidal Basin, Brew House, mushroom harvesters, and a gossip loving post office employee all add depth to the town.  

The muder is pretty straight forward, who ever killer Miles also framed Avery.  But who and why is the elusive part.  Miles was a bit difficult as a chef at times, but finding a real reason to kill the man is harder than you might think.  The pacing is steady with only a few times when it started to lag, but quickly recovered.  

The killer reveal is nicely tense and dramatic like I like them.  The wrap up was short and left me with a smile.

This is a solid debut novel with many elements hitting a delightful chord.  I would like to see Emmy learn to think before running head-long in the fray would be my only suggestion for improvement.

Rating:  Good - A fun read with overall enjoyable story line and plotting with some enjoyable characters.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Guest Author Post - Clover Tate

Clover Tate (a.k.a. Angela Sanders) is the author of The Booster Club mysteries, the Vintage Clothing mysteries, and the new Kite Shop mysteries.  Please welcome Ms. Tate to our blog today.

A Day With Emmy

Last night as part of a mystery author panel, I was asked how I’d spend the day if I hung out with Blown Away’s protagonist, Emmy Adler. Even though I’ve spent months with Emmy on the page, I’d never thought about how she and I would pass time in real life. You know what? I realized we’d have a pretty good time.

I’d definitely want to walk on the beach with Emmy. She has an artist’s eye for blue sky reflecting on ocean-slicked sand or the row of fishermen’s cottages that stand in a tidy row above the surf. Blown Away takes place on Oregon’s wild and rocky coast in a small town called Rock Point. We might hike on the cliffs above the old bungalow Emmy shares with her best friend, Avery, and smell the pine needles that crunch under our feet, or walk Rock Point’s charming Main street.

I’d also like to stop by Avery’s café, the Brewhouse, to sip a latte and listen to Miles Davis on the café’s turntable. Emmy might point out to me some of Rock Point’s residents, like Jeanette, who lords over the post office and knows everyone’s business; Ace, the ex-Vietnam vet who takes care of the town’s plumbing and odd jobs when he isn’t hanging out in his boat with his cats Yin and Yang; or Stella, a retired school teacher turned artist who has become one of Stella’s best friends, despite their age difference.

I have a feeling conversation would turn to Emmy’s parents, from whom she escaped when she moved from Portland to Rock Point. She loves them, but their uninvited gifts of quinoa casseroles and herbal remedies and their constant drop-ins were beginning to smother her. Her father can’t stop talking about his composting club or his participation in the local Watergate reinactment group, while her mother has a steadfast devotion to astrological omens and her “croning circle.”

If you read Blown Away, you’ll spend time with Emmy, too, although under more dangerous circumstances than the day I just described. I hope you find her as good company as I do!

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Thank you Ms. Tate for this peek into the character of Emmy Adler.  I will be reviewing Blown Away shortly, so check back.

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Review - Assault and Beret

In addition to being the author of the Hat Shop Mysteries, Jenn Mckinlay also writes the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries and the Library Lover’s Mysteries.  Today I review the 5th entry in the Hat Shop Mystery series.  This is a first time read in this series for me, see what you think. 

Author: Jenn McKinlay

Copyright: Jan 2017 (Berkley) 299 pgs

Series: 5th in A Hat Shop Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Scarlett Parker, American co-owner of a London Hat Shop

Setting: Modern day, Paris France

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

From the cover: "London milliner Vivian Tremont and her American cousin and partner, Scarlett Parker, tip their caps to their beloved shop on Portobello Road in Notting Hill and set off for Paris, where Viv can’t wait to teach a hat-making class. But she has another reason to travel to the City of Light: to find the man she impulsively eloped with years ago and have their marriage annulled.

William Graham is not only handsome and charming, but he also has a glamorous job as an insurance investigator who works with priceless pieces of art, most recently a small Renoir that has been discovered in a junk shop. But when both Will and the masterpiece suddenly disappear, it’s up to the ladies from London to follow the trail of clues. They’ll need to hold on to their chapeaux, however, because someone is a master in the art of deception."

Scarlett Parker, has a ban on dating (a challenge leveled by her mother for her own sake) with only a couple of months left and counting.  This was a bit contrived, but overall her character is enjoyable.  Cousin Vivian Tremont is conflicted in her mission for an annullment and proves hard to figure out, even for Scarlett.  Harrison, Scarlett's London boyfriend is a genuine good guy and incredibly patient with the dating ban.  William Graham is long lost charming husband who decides to win Vivian back.  Alistair, Vivian's boyfriend makes a surprise visit to help out no matter what Viv's ultimate decision will be.  Madame Suzette Leclaire is the French landlady where they are staying who frets over the girls.  Nick and Andre, friends from London even arrive to assist the girls.

Paris sights abound as Scarlett investigates, some are not the usual either.  I particularly enjoyed the places she visits in this book as a great touch.  The plot was not intricate but has enough going on to present a nice challenge and kept me turning the pages.  

I have to give kudos for a particularly good killer reveal with plenty of suspense.  The wrap up is pure perfection as well.

This was the first time I had read a book from this series, which is a shame because I enjoyed the characters thoroughly. 

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it, it had a good grip on me! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list 

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Who is Your Mystery Valentine?

Whether you think this holiday is too commercial or you revel in it, I wish you a great Valentines Day!  I will be volunteering at a fundraiser for the cat shelter, Look What the Cat Brought In.  Sharing the love of cats!

This may sound a little bit odd for a question to readers, but here goes.  I know we all have favorite characters in the books we read, but which character in a mystery or crime fiction novel would you want to go on a date with...if they were to spring out the pages of the book and be real???

Would it be Archie Goodwin from the Nero Wolfe novels or maybe boyish Ellery Queen?  Would it be Hamish Macbeth, Inspector Arthur St. Just or maybe Marco Salvare from the Flower Shop mysteries is your idea of a hot date?

I don't want to leave anybody out, so anybody our there think Stephanie Plum, Kinsey Millhone, Stieg Larson's Lisbeth or chef extraordinaire Goldy Korman would their idea of a great date?

There are some great characters in the thousands of crime fiction books around us that there must be somebody for everybody.  So, fess up and share who your mystery valentine would be!!

Let's get some lively comments flying back and forth - let your imagination go and have some fun with this ;-)

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Author Guest Post - Sofie Ryan

This is a new author for me, and I will be reviewing the newest Second Change Mystery soon.  For now, enjoy this delicious recipe from the author.

Angelic Banana Bread

In the Second Chance Cat mysteries you can always count on three things when it comes to those senior sleuths known as the Angels. One, they’re actually pretty good detectives. Two, they drink gallons of tea. And three, a cup of tea tastes better with a little something sweet on the side—at least according to Rose Jackson. Rose is often the source of those sweet treats, anything from oatmeal cookies to cinnamon coffeecake to her popular banana bread.


1 cup of mashed bananas
⅓ cup butter or margarine
⅔ cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 ¾ cups flour
1 ¼ teaspoons cream of tartar
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt


Grease a loaf pan. Preheat oven to 350° F.

Cream the butter, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Add alternately with the mashed bananas to the creamed ingredients. Mix well.

Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in the pan then remove and cool on a wire rack.


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Thanks you Ms. Ryan.  I can't wait to try this recipe out.  Cozy mysteries have a rich tradition of including food and recipes.  Do you enjoy recipes at the end of the book?  Have you tried them?  Good or bad results?

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