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Monday, October 16, 2017

Author Guest Post - Delia James

Delia James was born in California and raised in Michigan, she writes her tales of magic, cats, and mystery from her hundred-year-old bungalow home. She is the author of the Witch’s Cat mysteries, which began with A Familiar Tail. When not writing, she hikes, swims, gardens, cooks, reads, and raises her rapidly growing son.  Let's join her for some classic movie talk.


Fall is my favorite time of year. I’ve always lived near the Great Lakes where we get the classic red and gold, crisp, frosted autumns and I love to be out and about and just feel the air.

Fall is also a time when I get my retro on. Maybe because it’s a time of such dramatic change outside, I find myself curling up inside with things that have lasted. I dig deep back into my favorite classic books, and classic movies. And since I’m a fan of mysteries, that tends to pull me back around to the work of actor Jimmy Stewart.

A lot of people may only know Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey — the kind, infinitely upright, somewhat bewildered hero of It’s a Wonderful Life. Or maybe they have heard a passing reference to his Mr. Smith Goes to Washington when the papers are talking about changes to the filibuster rules in the Senate, again.

But Stewart was also the star of some absolutely classic
crime dramas. He wasn’t an action hero. He was a talker, a reasonable, if sometimes cranky, man. His characters were played with intelligence, understatement and a very dry humor, but also with a humanity, and an appreciation for the people around him. Stewart projects a manner that draws you in, in the same way a good storyteller at the party can make you forget the mini-quiches because you really want to hear how this one came out. Stewart also had an eye for a script, and his crime dramas have aged amazingly well. They are slow by modern standards, and the watching them is more like seeing a play than a thriller, but then, I’m a theater buff too, so for me, that’s a feature, not a bug.

The suspense in Stewart dramas builds on small things, ordinary things, like passing remarks and small, observed details. There’s an admirable lack of explosions and very low body counts. The suspense is intimate; it always remains on a human scale. As such, although they are not cozies, I like to go back to them for inspiration, and a reminder of what really makes for a good mystery.

The first of my three Jimmy Stewart favorites has got to be Rope. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and based on a stage play, Rope is one of a flurry of works inspired by the case of Leopold and Loeb. In it, Stewart is a teacher invited to a dinner party by a former student, who has just committed a murder, and hidden the body in the apartment. This does not count as a spoiler, because it happens right up front in the first five minutes of the movie. The suspense is built around whether or not Stewart’s character is going to work out what’s wrong. The humor is dry, the people are deeply individual, and the story is satisfying.

The second favorite is also a Hitchcock project; Rear Window. This is another one-room movie. Stewart is a photographer laid up with a broken leg who starts watching the people in the next apartment building. Yeah, okay, slightly creepy, but the guy’s bored. He also thinks he’s seen a murder, and the disposal of the body. Like Rope, Rear Window is not a whodunit. But even more than in Rope, Rear Window’s story, is built around the slow reveal of the reality, and the humanity, of both friends and strangers.

My final Stewart classic is a local favorite, and probably the most famous Michigan-set mystery. Anatomy of a Murder takes place in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and is a classic courtroom drama. Stewart is a lawyer in serious need of cash, so he takes on the case of a man accused of murdering his wife’s rapist. The problem is the murder took place in a crowded bar and a lot of people saw who fired the shots. The further problem is there’s a question of exactly who is guilty of exactly what.

This version of Stewart has a few more shades of gray than his usual characters. More dogged than stalwart, he’s a little depressed, a little adrift and a little more interested in his check than in the truth.

Oh, and if you’re into a side of classic jazz with your crime drama, there’s a cameo by the great Duke Ellington.

It’s fall. Winter, as somebody keeps reminding us, is coming. Time to take up the comforter, the pumpkin spice, and a nice, warm classic.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

THANK You Ms. James.  I enjoy classic old movies and Jimmy Stewart as well.  

My favorite Stewart movies are Hitchcock's Rear Window, Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Glenn Miller Story, and the Cheyenne Social Club.

For Halloween I like to watch the classic Tom Hank's movie The Burbs.  Of course, for a classic scary movie, Betty Davis in Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte is great.

How about you?  What movies do you like to enjoy either with cold weather approaching or for Halloween?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 


The publisher has offered one copy of Familiar Motives for giveaway!

Entry for giveaway lasts until Monday October 23rd 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 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 or follower (including email subscriber) of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.

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

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Spooktacular Giveaway Blog Hop 2017

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 sixth year!  One combination prize to a winner, 6 winners!

1)  A Panicked Premonition by Victoria Laurie and A Ghostly Light by Juliet Blackwell

2)  Wrong Side of the Paw by Laurie Cass and Crowned and Dangerous by Rhys Bowen

3)  Muffin to Fear by Victoria Hamilton and Murder She Wrote: Hook, Line, and Murder by Donald Bain

4)   Familiar Motives by Delia James and By Familiar Means by Delia James

5)   Telling Tails by Sofie Ryan and A Tale of Two Kitties by Sofie Kelly

6)  Whispers of Warning by Jessica Estevao

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

I 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, 2017.    I shall notify each winner via the email address you provide to get your mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you.  If I don't hear from you in 3 days, I will select another winner and notify them.

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

BECOME a member (or email subscriber) 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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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Review - Murder on Black Swan Lane

I loved Andrea Penrose's Lady Arianna Regency series beginning with Sweet Revenge (click here), The Cocoa Conspiracy (click here), and Recipe for Treason (click here), plus an interview with the author (click here).  She has started a new historical mystery series that I was excited to read and review.  Check out what I thought.

Author: Andrea Penrose

Copyright: June 2017 (Kensington) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Wrexford and Sloane Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Earl of Wrexford, former military man and amateur chemist teamed with Widowed Charlotte Sloane, a satirical cartoonist under the name A.J. Quill

Setting: Regency era, London England

Obtained Through: Personal Purchase

From the book cover: "The Earl of Wrexford possesses a brilliant scientific mind, but boredom and pride lead him to reckless behavior. He does not suffer fools gladly. So when pompous, pious Reverend Josiah Holworthy publicly condemns him for debauchery, Wrexford unsheathes his rapier-sharp wit and strikes back. As their war of words escalates, London’s most popular satirical cartoonist, A.J. Quill, skewers them both. But then the clergyman is found slain in a church—his face burned by chemicals, his throat slashed ear to ear—and Wrexford finds himself the chief suspect.

An artist in her own right, Charlotte Sloane has secretly slipped into the persona of her late husband, using his nom de plume A.J. Quill. When Wrexford discovers her true identity, she fears it will be her undoing. But he has a proposal—use her sources to unveil the clergyman’s clandestine involvement in questionable scientific practices, and unmask the real murderer. Soon Lord Wrexford and the mysterious Mrs. Sloane plunge into a dangerous shadow world hidden among London’s intellectual enclaves to trap a cunning adversary—before they fall victim to the next experiment in villainy"

Charlotte Sloane has been scraping by financially since her husband died and she took up the satirical cartoon drawings he had done. But she still cares for a pair of homeless boys (Raven and Hawk), feeding them from her scant rations and clothing them. She is practical, rational, observant and an excellent artist.  She is also educated in Latin and well read, hinting that there is more to her background than meets the eye.

Earl of Wrexford, Wrex for short - never a first name, even with his friends - is a scientist in outlook which makes him different than other wealthy or titled peers.  He is faced with accepting he could be arrested for the murder, even though he didn't kill the man.  He has to keep his anger in check and investigate the murder better than the bow street man.  Tyler, his valet, is primarily his lab assistant and secondly his valet.  Tyler is a gem and challenges his Lordship.  Wrexford's best friend Christopher Sheffield has a gambling problem and is always in need to funds that his father will no longer provide.  But, when Wrex needs someone to watch his back, Christopher is right there in the investigation.  Henning is the anatomist dealing with autopsies of the dead, an old military doctor that Charlotte has known for a while and Wrex knew in the military.

The descriptions of London were just enough to set the stage and the rest is left to the reader's imagination.  I had no problem with that and felt the stage was set with atmosphere enough for me.  Even Charlotte's small place in a rough neighborhood was atmospheric for me.  I enjoyed how the settings were used to increase the tension.

The plot contained plenty of misdirection and red herrings to keep me guessing.  The final solution was more involved than I expected.  The pacing was maintained, keeping my interest throughout.  The killer confrontation is full of suspense and wonderfully well done.  The wrap-up raises the question of Charlotte's education and leaves the door open for them to work together again.

I have to say that I greatly enjoyed this novel.  It was entertaining and kept my interest in the characters and the investigation.  The two boys, Raven and Hawk, are delightful, and the subtle attraction between Wrexford and Charlotte is fun to watch.  There were an instant or two where I thought a phrase was more modern, but that didn't detract from the story for me.  I can't wait to jump back into the Wrexford and Sloane world again.

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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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Review - Yuletide Homicide

It's October and time for some wicked mystery fun.  This book features a practicing Wiccan, but it is not paranormal - so don't worry about that.  I typically like to start with the first book in a series, but I made an exception for this book when offered the chance to read and review it.  So let's get in the Halloween....spirit with this book about a nice little witch.

Author: Jennifer David Hesse

Copyright: Sept 2017 (Kensington) 320 pgs

Series: 3rd in Wiccan Wheel Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Keli Milanni, family law attorney and Wiccan

Setting: Modern day, Edindale, Illinois

Obtained Through: Publisher (Netgalley) for honest review

From book blurb: "It’s Christmas in Edindale, Illinois, and family law attorney Keli Milanni is preparing to celebrate the Wiccan holiday Yuletide, a celebration of rebirth. But this Yuletide someone else is focused on dying . . .

After years of practicing in secret, Keli has come out as a Wiccan to her boyfriend, and she feels like this Yuletide she’s the one who’s being reborn. But the Solstice is the longest night of the year, and Keli is about to stumble on a mystery so dangerous, she’ll be lucky to make it to morning.

Paired with her unbearably stuffy colleague Crenshaw Davenport III, Keli goes undercover at a real estate company owned by mayoral candidate Edgar Harrison. An old friend of Keli’s boss, Harrison, is being blackmailed, and it’s up to her to find the culprit. But the morning after the company holiday party, Harrison is found dead underneath the hotel Christmas tree. The police rule the death an accident, but Keli knows better—and she’ll risk her own rebirth to nab a missing killer."

Keli Milanni is a smart modern gal working hard to make partner at her law firm.  Crenshaw Davenport III, an elitist-top hat wearing- lawyer in her firm who tends to be patronizing but occasionally shows a nicer side, is teamed with Keli to go undercover.  Wes Callahan, a tattooed bartender and former client's grandson, is Keli's boyfriend and I approve of the move away from the CRI (Cop Romantic Interest).  Mila is the owner of New Age gift shop Moonstone Treasures and a Wiccan mentor for Keli.  Farrah is her best friend and trusty sidekick.

Edindale, Illinois seems to be more than a small town from the feel, perhaps a mid-sized city. The main settings that were particularly used well were the hotel for the party and sight of the murder, and the Stag Creek Lodge outside of town for the final killer reveal.  I liked both of these.

I was immediately drawn into the story and it seemed to skate along easily.  There were only a few places where it slowed but those didn't last long.  The plot was enough to keep my interest.

The snowy killer confrontation had some tense moments, just like I like them.  The killer wasn't completely out of the blue, nor was the killer obvious.   

I liked the balance of personal life and the struggle Keli has when she can't be completely open about her beliefs and practice.  The mystery was standard.  If you're looking for a fun mystery to enjoy as a pleasant diversion, this is your ticket.

Rating: Excellent - I enjoyed it, it kept me entertained! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Spotlight-Giveaway: Mrs. Jeffries New Book

Today  I am doing a spotlight for a holiday mystery.  I know, even the Halloween items in the store are overshadowed by December already, let alone poor November's Thanksgiving!   Today we have a spotlight and giveaway for Mrs. Jeffries and the Three Wise Women.  I have to say, I love the title.  I reviewed a prior Mrs Jeffries book a few years back (click here.) 

From the cover: "As the holidays approach, all is merry and bright for Inspector Witherspoon, Mrs. Jeffries, and the staff at Upper Edmonton Gardens...but murder knows no season.


Christopher Gilhaney isn’t a popular man, and he proves why once again when he insults every guest at Abigail Chase’s Guy Fawkes Night dinner party. When Gilhaney is shot dead under the cover of the night’s fireworks, his murder is deemed a robbery gone wrong. But when the case hasn’t been solved six weeks later, Inspector Witherspoon is called upon to find the killer—and quickly!

With Christmas almost here, Inspector Witherspoon and everyone in his household is upset at the possibility of having to cancel their holiday plans—all to solve a case that seems impossible. Only Luty Belle, Ruth, and Mrs. Goodge refuse to give up and let the crime become a cold case. In fact, the American heiress, the charming next-door neighbor, and the formidable cook use all of their persuasive powers to get the others on board, because these three wise women know justice doesn’t take time off for Christmas."

I enjoy these traditional mysteries by Emily Brightwell and this one promises to be a lovely adventure.  


The publisher has offered two (2) copies for giveaway!

Entry for giveaway lasts until Monday October 9th 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 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 or follower (including email subscriber) of this blog, you only need to leave a comment with your correct email.

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

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Even though Halloween and Thanksgiving seem to get crowded out already, the pumpkin craze has begun.  Here is a recipe to help you enjoy autumn to its fullest with a bit of pumpkin.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes with Cream Cheese Syrup


4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup maple syrup
2-4 Tbsp. milk
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Additional butter for cooking


Step 1
Beat together cream cheese and maple syrup. Slowly add milk until desired thickness; set aside.

Step 2
In a bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt. In another bowl whisk together milk, pumpkin, egg, butter and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until just blended.

Step 3
Heat a griddle or non-stick skillet over medium heat; add enough butter to coat pan. Use ¼ cup of batter for each pancake; cook until one side is golden and bubbles form and start popping. Flip and cook until second side is golden.

Recipe from King Sooper's website.  I wish they had a Bisquick or pre-mix base for a faster version.  

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Fill in Blank Game VII

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 recent books - they are also from the same series.

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 :-)

1) Track of the _________

2) ________ Island

3) A __________ Death

4) Endangered __________

5) _______ Country

6) ________ Season

7) Blood _______

8) ________ Wind

9) ________ Falling

10) Blind ________ 

The Author of all these books is __________ .  


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I have written and published my first cozy mystery - Iced
(Resort to Murder #1) that you may be interested in. 

"The mystery is relentless, the characters alive and funny, and for the lack of a better expression, the novel is a page-turner. A must read for all those who enjoy getting lost in a well-crafted story."  5 Stars Joss Landry

"ICED is a winner!"  JaneReads

"Clever and funny." Cheryl Malandrinos

Julienne has her ideal job as an event planner at a prestigious resort. During a luncheon event she coordinated, a renowned celebrity pastor is killed next to the buffet. All eyes turn to her as the suspect. If she wants to stay out of jail or even keep her job, Julienne needs all the help she can get to solve the crime. 

She has her work cut out for her with a vengeful high school rival now reporter, the public demanding she be fired, plus family who knows what's best for her, and a boyfriend who doesn't understand her. She turns to friends and a new ally to uncover who wanted to put the pastor on ice. 

Julienne goes undercover and investigates a local swingers group as she follows the trail of clues before they go cold. Can she gather enough suspects and motives to convince the police to her widen their investigation? Can she do it before the killer sets his murderous sights on her? Will her personal life ever be as simple as unveiling a murderer?

Buy links
Amazon (click here)
Barnes and Noble (click here)
IndieBound (click here)
Audio book (click here)

Currently working on the next in the series, Nailed.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Review - Doom with a View

Way, way back I reviewed on of Kate Kingsbury's Pennyfoot Hotel Holiday novels, Mistletoe and Mayhem (click here).  This is a new series and set in modern time in Oregon.  Join me for this mystery series from Crooked Lane Books.

Author: Kate Kingsbury

Copyright: Sept 2017 (Crooked Lane Books) 288 pgs

Series: 2nd in Merry Ghost Inn Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy with paranormal touches

Main Character: Melanie West, co-owner of Merry Ghost Inn B&B

Setting: Modern day, Sully’s Landing, Oregon

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

From the book cover: "With the arrival of six senior reading group members at the Merry Ghost Inn, the long-awaited Grand Opening week has finally begun for Melanie West and her grandmother, Liza. All is well with the Oregon coast-side B&B until Melanie’s dog, Max, finds the dead body of one of their guests.

Everyone at the inn immediately falls under suspicion, including the innkeepers themselves. Melanie and Liza are not sure who they can trust, and the idea of cohabitating with a murderer is enough to send chills down anyone’s spine. To make matters worse, the curmudgeonly town detective wants them to steer clear of the investigation, but doesn’t seem too inspired to solve the case in a timely fashion himself. To clear their own names and to avoid the blight on the inn’s reputation that yet another dead body will bring, Melanie and Liza dive headlong into the murder investigation.

With a little help from their chuckling ghost, Melanie and Liza dodge the detective, tip-toe around their suspicious guests, and still serve up delicious Bed & Breakfast meals on time in Kate Kingsbury’s delightful second Merry Ghost Inn mystery, Doom with a View."

Melanie, is an okay lead character.  I didn't feel part of her experience and that impacted the rest of the story for me.  Liza is her rebellious and outspoken grandmother that Melanie co-owns the B&B alongside.  Cindi is their tattooed part time help who I wish had been developed a bit more, she has tremendous potential.  Officer Ben Carter fills the CRI (cop-romantic-interest) role and seems to have a sense of humor.  Detective Tom Dutton (Grandma Liza calls Grumpy) is more realistic for a police detective.  Max is Melanie's dog and almost constant companion.  Orville is the resident laughing ghost who is heard but not seen.

The setting with the B&B could have been utilized a bit better, rather than Melanie and Liza seemingly hiding out in a little nook in the kitchen away from their guests.  But, then I love when the setting is another character so I may be biased.  I did appreciate the ocean side being ever present.

The plot is a mild Christie setup with sabotage to the balcony railing and a clandestine shove.  Figuring out who among the guests, all of which had motive, had the compunction to actually commit murder is the gist of the story.  The pacing suffered occasionally to a bit of meandering, which some may enjoy, but for me began to lose my interest.   

The killer reveal was quick and all the motive and details were discussed with the killer in a terribly civilized manor.  Now I truly love a good nail-biting killer confrontation, so this was too gentle and cozy for me.  But, I know some will enjoy how Ms. Kingsbury reveals the killer in a gentler fashion.

I liked the idea of the B&B setting, but wish it would have been used to its potential.  I didn't care for Melanie's ongoing search for her long lost mother.  It seemed like an afterthought written in and not that important at all.

Rating:  Good - A fun read with minor flaws. This will appeal to some, but not others.

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Review - Murder on the Rocks

This is a new-to-me series that I stumbled across.  I couldn't help but compare this  series to Brewing Up Trouble mystery series by Joyce Tremel (click here) which is set in Pittsburgh with a focus on craft beer brewing.  But there are plenty of differences to make them each unique even with a similar bar setting.  This neighborhood bar themed mystery is set in Milwaukee.  So join me for a peek at this unique series with book one.

Author: Allyson Abbott

Copyright: Aug 2013 (Kensington) 351 pgs

Series: 1st in Mack's Bar Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Mackenzie "Mack" Dalton, Milwaukee bar owner with neurological senses disorder

Setting: Modern day, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

Mack's Bar is one of those nice, friendly places where everybody knows your name. That's great when someone's buying you a round, but not so hot when you find yourself atop a list of murder suspects--with your fingerprints on the bloody knife!

Mackenzie "Mack" Dalton is a Milwaukee bar owner with a nose for trouble--literally. A neurological glitch has left her with extra perceptive senses. So when she stumbles upon a dead body in the alley behind the bar--the same spot where her own father was shot eight months earlier--she can tell right away there's something fishy in the air. The lead detective thinks there's a link between the two deaths, and he'll need Mack's help to sniff out the murderer amid the crowd of eccentric regulars. But when all the evidence points to her as the most likely culprit, it could be an early last call for Mack--and celebratory cocktails for a killer.  Includes drink recipes.

Mack's neurological mix up of her senses is unique for a main character and there is a lot of sorting through her situation.  Zachary Fairbanks, paramedic and casual boyfriend provides some complications.  Detective Duncan Albright is the romantic interest who goes undercover as part of the bar staff (with the assumption both the recent murder and Mach's father's murder eight months prior are connected) to determine the killer.  Full cast of bar regulars and employees, most all of which become suspects, are interesting and some are quirky.

Mack's historic bar is the location of mostly all the action.  The bar's connection with Capone was fascinating and I would have liked a bit more atmospheric description.  The plot was intertwined with Duncan's undercover work and growing closer to Mack.  I have to admit the pacing slowed slightly in a few places, but not for long.  The climax was nicely tense and nail biting, the way I like it. wrap-up sets up the continuing adventures of Mack smoothly.  

I liked the cop going undercover as a bar employee to investigate.  Mack didn't resonate strongly with me, nothing wrong with that though.  I got a little sidetracked by having to follow her different sensory condition, but I'm interested in following the series.  The climax was the strongest scene of the book, which was a great payoff.

Rating:  Good - A fun pleasant read with interesting characters.  Recommended for cozy lovers.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Review - Whispers of Warning

I reviewed the first novel in this new series, Whispers Beyond the Veil (click here) and was honored to have a guest post from the author (click here.)  Now we have the critical second book, which has a lot to live up to from the first.  Let's see how the series holds up with the newest addition.

Author: Jessica Estevao

Copyright: Sept 2017 (Berkley) 331 pgs

Series: 2nd in Change of Fortune Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy

Main Characters: Ruby Proulx, a psychic with a "questionable" past

Setting: 1898, Old Orchard-Maine

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

From the cover: "Free from the clutches of her con artist father, Ruby Proulx is starting to settle in at the Belden, her aunt Honoria’s seaside hotel. She loves finally being rooted in one place and also feels a sense of purpose as she helps Honoria keep her business afloat by acting as a psychic medium for the hotel’s metaphysically inclined guests.

When one of the guests, renowned Spiritualist and outspoken suffragist Sophronia Foster Eldridge, checks into the hotel for a monthlong stay, Ruby finds her sense of purpose expands outside the confines of home and family. Sophronia takes Ruby under her wing and mentors her in the mediumistic abilities, encouraging her to fight for women’s rights. 

But not everyone is as happy with Sophronia’s appearance in Old Orchard. When a dangerous act of sabotage is carried out and a body is found floating in the pool of a local bathhouse, Ruby takes it upon herself to find answers— and in the process learns that her new friend has been hiding some deadly secrets of her own."

Ruby has a good heart in spite of her con-artist rearing from her no-good father. She is afraid people will see through the attempts to be good and see the con she used to be.  She doesn't even trust her own psychic abilities.  Aunt Honoria is the family she always wanted, and will do anything for her.  Officer Warren Yancy provides the potential love interest, he struggles with his growing feelings for her.  Lucinda (Lucy) is Officer Yancy's sister who has become Ruby's fast friend and is a great side kick.  

The true seaside town of Old Orchard is a perfect setting along with the  Hotel Belden.  The murder doesn't happen right away, so there are events and conflicts happening leading up to the death. This doesn't slow the story down, but gives it more complexity.  The killer is a surprise I didn't anticipate!  The killer reveal had a few short moments of thrills that I loved, and answered all the questions.  The wrap up leaves a tantalizing tidbit for the next book. 

I love the "scandalous" bicycle outfits that Ruby and Lucy dare to wear.  I also appreciated the coverage of the ugly and even violent attitudes towards those seeking the vote - something we forget too easily.  All this was woven into the story without an agenda, but a tableaux of the era.  The mystery was solid, the historical setting is absorbing, and the characters each so realistic that the mix is truly an exciting escape.  The second book in the series maintains the high bar set by the debut book.  I have to say how I am loving the covers for this series, too.

Rating:  Near Perfect - Couldn't Put it down. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend. 

Here is a short video of historical photos involving the pier that is about to open during the book.  The pier and pavilion have had a hard time over the years as the video shows.  Tiny text at upper left.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Review - The Hanover Square Affair

I found a new historical Amateur Sleuth series set in Regency era.  This is my first novel from award-winning author Ashley Gardner also writes as New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Ashley and national bestselling author, Allyson James. She has written more than fifty novels and novellas in mystery, romance, historical fiction, and urban fantasy.  Here is my review of the first book in the series that consists of twelve novels so far, with a thirteenth slated for 2018 release.

Author: Ashley Gardner

Copyright: June 2017 (Create Space) 272 pgs

Series: 1st in Captain Gabriel Lacey Regency Mystery series

Sensuality: Medium

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Cavalry Captain Gabriel Lacey, recently returned from Napoleonic wars injured and fighting depression and PTSD

Setting: Regency London

Obtained Through: Personal Purchase

From the cover: "Cavalry captain Gabriel Lacey returns to Regency London from the Napoleonic wars, burned out, fighting melancholia, his career ended. His interest is piqued when he learns of a missing girl, possibly kidnapped by a prominent member of Parliament. Lacey's search for the girl leads to the discovery of murder, corruption, and dealings with a leader of the underworld. Lacey faces his own disorientation upon transitioning from a soldier's life to the civilian world, redefining his role with his former commanding officer, and making new friends--from the top of society to the street girls of Covent Garden."

Captain Lacey is your anti-hero who needs a cause to fight for as much as the missing girls need somebody to be on the case to find them.  Gabriel Lacey is dark with his inner demons to fight, but he is also a good man who is struggling.  He is no saint, but tries to live honorably.  He is somewhat a Don Quixote type which will make for a good series.  The primary other significant character is Lucius Grenville who is in the upper crust of society and has befriended Captain Lacey. A shady character that will likely be in subsequent novels of the series is James Denis, smuggler, influential, and cut-throat.  Louisa Brandon, the wife of his former best friend, is his un-requited love and the person who can soften his rough edges.

Regency era England with its splendor and squalor, gentility and gutter-rats, populate the story in a cohesive panarama.  The plot is dark and perilous witout turning detailed on the horrific.  Just enough to understand the peril at stake.  There are times that the pacing slows where we learn more about Captain Lacey's past, but they are well worth the time.  

In this debut novel of the series, there is no tense confrontation with the killer.  The culprit is confronted and answers provided, but it isn't a daring scene with peril.  Although I love the really tense and suspenseful killer reveals, the way this was handled added a level of seriousness to the ending.  There are other moments in the story that provide good excitement though.

I like Captain Lacey and his character has potential and the writer's style is easy to follow.  I wasn't enamored with the book, but not turned off by it either.  I would like a bit more description for mood and setting, a few moments of joy for Captain Lacey so it doesn't feel so heavy.  And of course, I love a harrowing killer confrontation.  That said, there aren't as many Regency mysteries and I will probably read the next in the series.

Rating: Good - A solid read with minor flaws, good but not stellar. Maybe read an excerpt before buying. 

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Guest Author Post - Betty Hechtman

Ms. Betty Hechtman, author of the national best selling Crochet Mystery series and the Yarn Retreat Mystery series, is joining us today.  I reviewed her new release, A Tangled Yarn (click here.)  Please welcome Ms. Hechtman to our blog.

The Real Identity

Are any of my characters based on real people? Nope, they are all completely fictitious, but the animals are all real. I thought it was time to reveal one of their real identities.

When I was thinking of a animal companion for Casey Feldstein in the Yarn Retreat Series, I immediately thought of a cat that lived down the street. He might have lived there, but he spent a lot of time in our yard and on our front porch and he even walked inside once when the door was open. His name was Julius and he shared his household with a corgi. His owner, a not so friendly guy, would walk the lumbering short legged corgi, and Julius would tag along on his own.

He had slightly long black fur and an attitude. I know what you’re saying - all cats have attitude.  Julius had even more. It was the way he made eye contact while holding his ground. He never walked fast, but sauntered as if he owned the world. I talk about him in the past tense because Julius and his family moved away a number of years ago. Now we just have Fake Julius. He or she, I’m not sure, though I’m betting on a he, lives nearby and considers our yard part of his domain. He has the same longish black fur and arresting yellow eyes. I would say that Julius just moved in with someone else when his family left, but I saw both black cat in our yard at once.  And Julius wore a name tag, Fake Julius wears none.

The Julius in my book is a little different. He has the same attitude, but he starts out as a stray.  Although I don’t go into it in the book, I think of him having been abandoned and living off the snacks he’s being fed by the kitchen help at the hotel and conference center that hosts the yarn retreats Casey puts on. It’s called Vista Del Mar and is on the edge of the Monterey Peninsula.  The grounds are filled with Monterey Pines and Monterey Cypress and ground cover that grows on its own. In other words, it is kind of wild and untamed. The buildings are dark and moody and there is lots of fog.

The manager of Vista Del Mar is not happy with Julius’s presence on the grounds and uses his golf cart to try to chase him away. The fictitious Julius acts very much like the real cat. He gets out of the way of golf cart, but then stands his ground and stares at the manager with his arresting yellow eyes.

Casey has never had a pet and has no idea how it works with cats. She doesn’t know you don’t pick them, they pick you. However, she finds out when Julius decides she’s the human for him and follows her home.

A TANGLED YARN, is the fifth book in the series and by now Julius has done a good job of training Casey on how to be his human. He has her stocking his favorite food, she calls stink fish for the obvious reason, and has her feeding him it on his command. Much as she’d like to keep him safe as an indoor cat, he has to have his freedom. However, when he gets accused of making a mess of her retreaters’ yarn, he gets put under house arrest. Poor Julius doesn’t even get his day in court.

Though she started out uncertain about their parnteship, Julius has etched a space in Casey’s heart and she knows that whatever happens and wherever she goes, Julius will be coming along. 

Whenever I see Fake Julius, I wonder if he has any idea of the job he’s inherited as my inspiration and the adventures I’ve made up for him.
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Betty Hechtman grew up in Chicago and has a degree in Fine Arts. She has been into mystery and  handicrafts since she was a kid. Being able to mix her two loves in the national best selling Crochet Mystery series and the Yarn Retreat Mystery series is like a dream come true. She has many eclectic interests and has taken classes in everything from improv comedy to magic.

She has written newspaper and magazine pieces, short stories and screenplays, along with a children’s mystery, STOLEN TREASURE which also includes the 13 year-old- babysitters favorite recipes.

The current release in the Yarn Retreat series is A TANGLED YARN and HOOKING FOR TROUBLE is the latest in the Crochet series.  She lives in Southern California with her family and a lot of yarn. Over the years she has had thirteen animal companions, a number of whom have shown up at her front door, but is now down to one very affectionate cat. The welcome mat is always out for any abandoned pets looking for a home.

For more information 
Facebook: Betty Hechtman author 
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THANK You Ms. Hechtman for your visit.  I have two brother black cats now that I rescued from a shelter/rescue.  I love Julius in the book and this was fun to learn more about how his character was inspired.

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Speaking of cats...
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.

Click here to buy

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