Friday, April 19, 2019

Reading Promotes STEM

My young fifth grader "friends" in Mr. Wollner's class at Murphy School in Round Lake Park are appreciating their Scintillating STEM Supplements. I'm happy to help them through DonorsChoose.org 
In Mr. Wollner's words, "I am looking to purchase extension activities to further enhance the student experience in my Project Lead The Way classroom. The devices will be put to use as enrichment activities for early finishers, and as options to use when students have earned a free-choice engineering day. The Parrot Mambo Drone is compatible with the coding app being used by the 4th and 5th grade students.

Students will be able to apply their newly acquired coding skills to write code that will navigate the drone to complete a task. The drone will provide an exciting way to extend student learning."


If you are looking to assist a classroom in your hometown or any other place, go to DonorsChoose.org and you will be able to help.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Catch Me When I'm Falling

When Charlie's mother asks her to look into the death of a friend, Charlie knows this could have many risks. First, the death took place in Detroit's notorious Corridor, second, the police think the crime isn't worth investigating and third, Charlie is in the midst of selling her place and purchasing a house with her partner Mandy. In Catch Me When I'm Falling by Cheryl Head, Charlie decides to go undercover as a street person to investigate.

The Corridor is a dangerous place filled with drug trafficking, homelessness and now murder. As Charlie investigates, she discovers several other homeless people have been killed and their bodies burned. When she tries to convince the police there is a serial killer at work, they resist the idea.

With the assistance of a homeless man named Reggie whose friend was one of those killed, Charlie goes undercover to learn who is killing these people and why. Waiting in a food line, standing around a barrel fire and doing odd jobs takes Charlie deep into the world of the homeless.

What she discovers leads her to a sadistic killer with ties to a local drug dealer and a connection to the already compromised Detroit police department. With the help of her feisty mother Josephine, a crack researcher, and her partners in the Mack Investigations Agency, begin to put the pieces together and the answers will force the police to take action.

A tense, dark mystery with vivid descriptions of the atmosphere in the Corridor.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Interview with Daryl Wood Gerber

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
Sifting Through Clues. This is the 8th in the Cookbook Nook Mysteries. It will be my 19th book
Daryl Wood Gerber
published.

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How did you develop your character and choose your location?
In this series, I started with the shop. I know that sounds “different,” but here’s why I did. For a book signing for my Cheese Shop Mysteries (which I write as Avery Aames) I went to a darling culinary bookshop in Occoquan, Virginia and fell in love. I knew I had to write about a culinary bookshop. But I set in on the coast of California because California is my home. I’ve lived by the beach and thought that would be the perfect setting. Then I came up with my protagonist, Jenna Hart, a former advertising executive who has lost her smile. When her aunt asks her to move home to help her open the culinary bookshop, Jenna jumps at the chance. One small problem – Jenna is not a cook. She is a foodie and she adores books. In the first book, she has to learn everything…from scratch.

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What do you enjoy about the author’s lifestyle? What do you not enjoy? I love working by myself on my hours. I can write at 3 a.m. or 6 p.m. I enjoy being able to talk out loud to myself and not think I’m crazy. LOL There’s not much I don’t enjoy except when I feel like I’m not “nailing” the story. However, if I have to work to make a story come alive, that’s fine. I enjoy a challenge.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
No. None of my characters are “me,” and yet they could be. They all love their family and friends. They are loyal. They are curious by nature. I’m over 50. All my protagonists are younger. Maybe I’m reliving my youth?

How do you get yourself out of a writing rut?
I don’t believe in a writer’s block. So if I’m feeling like I’m in a rut, I put my rear end in a chair and write something – anything. A letter, a grocery list. Get my mind in gear. If I have to, I’ll reread two to three chapters to jumpstart ideas. When all else fails, I refer to my outline and tweak and tweak until something comes together that feels like inspiration. Mark Twain said, “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
For the Cookbook Nook Mysteries, I’d like to see Angie Harmon. She’s exactly who I pictured when I created Jenna. Now, Jenna is not tough like the Rizzoli character Angie played in the past, but she’s frisky and smart and resolute.

Who is your favorite author?
I have so many it wouldn’t be fair to list them all. I have read everything Krista Davis has written. I’ve read nearly everything Lisa Gardner has written. I enjoy reading Harlan Coben and Daniel Silva. I loved reading Agatha Christie and often reread her work. For individual books: I absolutely adored The Three Musketeers, Rebecca, and so many more.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Steve Martin, Audrey Hepburn, and Agatha Christie. Talk about a smart crowd! Can you imagine the conversation?

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
Well, I did cater before becoming an actress and before becoming a writer. So maybe I’d go back to catering. I love to cook. But the hours can be excruciating. I’d love to do standup comedy but someone would have to write my material. LOL I could be a life coach or career guidance counselor for teenagers. I really enjoy this phase of kids. They’re so eager to move forward.

Great questions. Made me think.

Bio:
Agatha Award-winning Daryl Wood Gerber writes the nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries as well as the French Bistro Mysteries. As Avery Aames, she pens the popular Cheese Shop Mysteries. Daryl also writes stand-alone suspense. Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote.” She loves to cook, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky who keeps her in line!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

SIfting for Clues

For a chance to win one of Daryl Wood Gerber's books or this one, click the link a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest ends at Midnight, Sunday, April 21. US and Canada

The Book Club Bonanza opens in Crystal Cove, California, with book club members attending from near and far. In Sifting for Clues by Daryl Wood Gerber, Jenna Hart has the Cookbook Nook stocked with all kinds of tempting cookbooks. (Sifting Through Clues will be released by Beyond the Page Publishing on April 23.)

She's most excited about participating with the Mystery Mavens book club in their movable feast dinner. The plan is to have one course at each house sample the food, discuss the mystery they are reading (The Diva Serves High Tea by Krista Davis) then move on to the next course.

When they arrive at Ivy Beale's home, they find her dead - stabbed in the chest with a rose quartz shard. Two gold colored quartz pieces are placed over her eyes and a bonsai tree pot is beside her head. Who would kill Ivy, the owner of Dreamcatcher, anew age healing stone and crystal shop?

Turns out there is not a shortage of suspects and first among them
is Pepper Pritchett, the police chief's mother. Pepper and Ivy have been known to go toe to toe and lately they seemed to be competing for Pepper's boyfriend Hank Hemmings. But Ivy also made lots of enemies because she knew secrets about people and wasn't afraid to use them.

Jenna knows her friend Chief Pritchett doesn't like her to be involved, but she feels she needs to investigate, especially as she discovered the body.  That doesn't sit well with the chief, but Jenna quietly begins to ask questions. What she finds surprises and worries her; there are more suspects than she expected.

Another delectable mystery with mouthwatering recipes included.





Monday, April 15, 2019

Your Choice Giveaway

Daryl Wood Gerber and MapYourMystery.com present a new Giveaway! Contest ends Midnight, Sunday, April 21.

One lucky winner will get a choice of any of Daryl Wood Gerber's books, though you’ll have to wait until April 23 for a paper copy of Sifting Through Clues. Open to US and Canada only.




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Friday, April 12, 2019

Wed, Read & Dead

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Sam's mother announces that she is getting married in three weeks on Christmas Eve throwing everyone into a tizzy. In Wed, Read & Dead by V.M. Burns, the family has only just recently learned Grace Hamilton is planning to remarry. On top of it, she is planning to marry one of the richest men in Southwestern Michigan - Harold Robertson.

Grace Hamilton has always approached life with a princess attitude which Sam attributes to her father's desire to abet this behavior. Now it seems Harold has the same goal in mind, so when Grace decides her daughters need to wear bubble gum pink bridesmaid dresses, Sam says no way.

With the clock ticking towards Christmas Eve, Sam know she doesn't have time to organize her mother's wedding.But when the wedding planner from hell appears, everyone runs for cover. Lydia Lighthouse has her own ideas of what should be included in the wedding and spares no thought to the expense. Before long Lydia has offended nearly everyone, including her own team members.

No one is surprised when her attitude leads to murder and the groom-to-be is a suspect. Harold has been heard to say he would like to strangle her and when Lydia is found strangled, things look bleak for Harold and the wedding. As Sam learns more about Lydia Lighthouse and her Grace's future in-laws, she starts to piece together a list of suspects.

With the help of her grandmother's Sleuthing Seniors, Sam is able to solve the murder and save the wedding. Nana Jo and her friends are a riot and their efforts to solve the crime are ingenious.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

A Deadly Feast

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Hayley and Nathan have finally set the wedding date and it will be during the Thanksgiving weekend. In A Deadly Feast by Lucy Burdette, plans are never set in stone when you are marrying a police detective. (A Deadly Feast will be released by by Crooked Lanes Books on May 7.)

As for Hayley, she sets out on a seafood tasting tour with some visitors for an article she is writing, then one of the participants falls over dead. Because most of the stops on the tour are run by her friends, Hayley wants to prove it wasn't food poisoning that caused the woman to die. 

Especially hard hit is Chef Martha at Isle Cook Key West because, at first, it appears her key lime pie in mason jars might be the culprit. As like anywhere in the country, a restaurant's livelihood depends on customer satisfaction, Nothing ruins a reputation more than your food killing one of your customers. 

Hayley worries for her friend Analise who operates the tours, so
she decides to recreate the stops on the tour and ask questions. The secrets she finds leads Hayley into trouble of her own. She discovers a long ago connection between some of the tour participants and one of the restaurant owners that may have lead to the death. 

On the wedding planning side, Hayley's father and his new family will be meeting Nathan for the first time. Knowing her father, she is anxious about the first meeting with Nathan. Unfortunately Nathan doesn't show up for the rehearsal or for Thanksgiving dinner the next day. When constant texting, phoning and badgering his boss Steve Torrence brings no news of Nathan, Hayley's anxiety level skyrockets.

Where is Nathan? Why is Hayley so freaked over Lorenzo's reading? Will Hayley ever be able to eat key lime pie in a Mason jar? Who killed the tourist? For the answers to these and other questions, read A Deadly Feast. A delectable morsel. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Interview with Mariah Fredericks

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
My new book is called Death of a New American. It’s the second in the Jane Prescott series and the twelfth book I’ve published.

How did you become interested in historical fiction and who do you research your books?
As a kid, historical fiction was my favorite genre. I went through all of Jean Plaidy and Mary Renault as well as less famous but equally awesome writers like Elizabeth Byrd and Rosemary Hawley Jarman. At that time, American history didn’t fascinate me as much. Peaceful transition of power? No heads chopped off when the new government comes in? How boring. But working on this series, I’ve found that 1910s America is plenty violent.

As for research, I start by buying way too many books. I rough out the basic events of the year the book takes place. What was going on politically, socially, culturally. That research usually gives me the theme for the novel. But I also do research to determine how events and trends were seen at the time. For example, the Titanic sinks at the beginning of Death of a New
American. How did people see that tragedy in the days after it happened? For that kind of research, The New York Times digital archives are a godsend. You can comb through articles for 1912 and see different perspectives of the disaster unfold. The vision of brave men sacrificing themselves for women and children was much more important to commentators of the time whereas our era tends to be more focused on the class divide.

Photographs are also hugely important when I have to recreate the city in which Jane lives and moves. How crowded are the streets? Where are the trains? Do women walk by themselves? What do they wear? What’s the traffic like? Here the New York Public Library’s online catalog of prints and photographs is fantastic. You want to know what the entrance to the New York Zoological Park looked like in 1912? They have that image.

What do you enjoy about the author’s lifestyle? What do you not enjoy?
Enjoy? Pretty much everything. Spending my day in my imaginary world with characters chattering away in my head is heaven. I feel extraordinarily lucky that I get paid to do that. Writing a historical set in my hometown means I get to walk around the city, seeing it through Jane’s eyes. That’s another great pleasure. I get to talk to readers who are invested in my characters and want to know what happens to them. It’s the best.

One thing I find tricky is balancing the inner and outer focus of today’s writing life. There’s the quiet do-the-work headspace where you’re just living the story. Then there’s the focus on the external response to your work: reviews, sales, networking. That requires a different mindset and I don’t find the two co-exist easily. I don’t do my best writing when I’m in promotion mode. You’re listening to different voices.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
Jane Prescott is her own person. She started talking to me more than a decade ago and she had her own voice, her own history and point of view. I don’t feel so much her creator as her typist.

Having said that, she and I do have things in common. Jane is a listener and observer. I like her sense of humor, also her instinct to look at the person rather than their status. She has enormous affection for Louise Benchley, who is rich. She is also devoted to her best friend Anna, who is an anarchist. Her aversion to callousness and arrogance is something I can relate to.

How do you get yourself out of a writing rut?
I am very comfortable writing badly. It doesn’t scare me because I know from experience that as long as I leave enough time for leisurely rewrites, I’m good. But I won’t have anything to rewrite if I don’t get something on the page, so…better churn out some pages! If it’s going really poorly, I’ll stop writing in sequence for a while and only write characters I love and scenes I feel on that day. That usually builds my faith back up.

I can get into a rut because part of my mind is focused on how people will react to the book. “What’s happening on Goodreads? Are there any new reviews? What’s my Amazon rating?” Most writers have to pay some attention to promotion now and it can be fun. But it can also make you see your story as a product or something that will trigger good or bad feelings in someone else. You stop experiencing it as its own authentic world. When that happens, I make a concerted effort to tune out external feedback. (Excuse me while I google myself…)

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
When I was writing the first book, I envisioned someone like Carey Mulligan playing Jane. I saw her in Bleak House when she was very young and I thought, Dear God, if she can play a Dickens heroine, she can play anything. She’s able to convey enormous intelligence and real kindness. And she can play someone who works for a living, which not all actors can do, oddly.

As to who I would want—I am happy to entertain all offers!

Who is your favorite author?
Oh, God, “favorite” is so hard. The people I read again and again are Dominick Dunne, David Handler, Minette Walters, Ira Levin. I just discovered George Saunders. I love Edward St. Aubyn. Can’t wait for the next Hilary Mantel.

If you could invite five people – living or dead – to a dinner party, who would they be?
I’m a born and bred, die hard New Yorker, but I have a soft spot for Texas. So I always thought it would be amazing to have Liz Smith, Molly Ivins, and Ann Richards to dinner because they knew one another and would be funny as hell on the state of the nation. We could have Larry McMurtry and LBJ join us for dessert.

Or at a separate dinner, I’d have David Sedaris, P.G. Wodehouse, Alan Bennett, Alison Bechdel, and Roz Chast.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
Sell books. I worked in Shakespeare and Co. an Book-of-the-Month Club for many years and it was great. Either that or work in some tiny way for the RSC or the National Theatre in London.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

When We Left Cuba

Beatriz Perez was always the wild one when the family lived in Cuba. Now living in Florida after the Cuban Revolution, Beatriz is more reckless than before. In When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton, the 1960s was a tumultuous time in Florida for Cubans forced from their country by Castro.

She knows how much her family sacrificed - their home, their sugar business, their country and most of all her beloved twin brother. Aching for revenge, she is the perfect candidate to be recruited by the CIA. It's the height of the Cold War and the U.S government doesn't want a Communist base located 90 miles south of Florida, so they recruit Beatriz to infiltrate Castro's inner circle.

Castro has always had a fondness for attractive, young women and Beatriz suits that description perfectly bringing her own brand of recklessness with her. Brash to a fault, Beatriz tries to capture Fidel's eye in Cuba while dazzling a soon-to-be engaged rising star young Senator.

Playing a dangerous game that could jeopardize her family even in Florida, Beatriz blatantly begins a
public affair with Senator Nick Preston III while pursuing her plan for revenge against Castro. Preston tries to convince her to give up her raging anger, but she is not to be dissuaded and sets off to Havana to join Castro's inner circle.

A lush, gorgeous story of revenge, lust, love and justice rolled into the lives of the American privileged class and the once-upon-a-time Cuban privileged class.

Enter to win a $100 Amazon Gift Card, Lilly Pulitzer palm tree necklace and earrings set, When We Left Cuba coffee mug, Besame cosmetics vintage-inspired lipstick, signed When We Left Cuba recipe cards, and signed When We Left Cuba bookmarks. The giveaway will run from April 7-20.

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Winner will be announced by Chanel Cleeton 

Monday, April 8, 2019

Shell Game

Sara Paretsky's novels always make me shake my fist in anger at the hopelessness of bureaucracy.  All our favorite bad apples and a few new ones appear in this book - ICE, the government, fat cat billionaires, people who prey on others, oh and the Russian mob. Shell Game has V.I. Warshawski up against some ruthless, amoral people.

When Lottie's nephew Felix is dragged to the site where a body is discovered in the middle of the night, V.I. Warshawski is at his side. He doesn't know the victim, but inside the pocket is Felix's name and phone number. Of course that does not stop the authorities from detaining him and accusing Felix of working with ISIS, even though he is Canadian.

As Vic digs deeper into the victim, she discovers Lawrence Fausson was obsessed with Middle East archaeology and had worked on a dig in Syria as a graduate student. She soon connects him to The Oriental Institute and a Syrian Community Center in the suburbs. Naturally any connection to the Middle East attracts the attention of ICE.

Also in the mix are her two nieces (from her long-ago marriage to Dick Yarborough) Reno and
Harmony. Both girls have lead tragic lives living with their drug-addicted, sexually abusive mother, but they seem to have survived despite her lifestyle. When Harmony turns up in Chicago asking Vic to help her find her missing sister Reno, Vic loves nothing better than pulling her ex-husband's chain and sending him into a rage.

While investigating Vic finds herself tangling with the Russian mob, missing artifacts, a shady network of stock scams who prey on financially-distressed people and her missing niece. Connecting the dots before someone else is murdered is a top priority.

An action-packed adventure that leads from Chicago to the Boundary Waters  with impacts in Syria and the Middle East. And in a twist of ironic fate, justice is served at the end. One of Paretsky's best novels. 

Even if you have never read any of the previous V.I. Warshawski books (and why haven't you), this one is superb.