Thursday, February 22, 2018

Death of an Unsung Hero

During World War I Lady Montfort has turned the Dower House in England into a hospital for officers sufferingfrom what is  commonly called shell shock, but medically called neurathenia. In Death of an Unsung Hero by Tessa Arlen Lady Montfort and her formidable housekeeper Mrs. Jackson throw themselves into the management of the hospital.

Using innovative new treatments at the hospital, officers are treated quietly with a wide range of therapies including art, working on the land and just talking. Some of the officers arrive at the hospital with a different symptoms, so the therapies are more tailored to their needs. Locally, some people think these officers are malingerers, but Lady Montfort believes in the treatments.

Captain Bray, a decorated officer, arrives at the hospital with amnesia and the inability to interact with others. Although he is making progress, he has a long way to go before he is cured. On the day that his brother is scheduled for a visit, Captain Bray is found dead in the kitchen garden.

Horrified by his death, Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson cannot imagine that any of their other officer
patients could have committed the crime. Adding to their stress, the Medical Board is planning to review the hospital's procedures in the next week, and Lady Montfort is concerned about how they will feel about murder, especially as a second officer patient is murdered.

When a clue presents itself in the artwork created by Captain Bray, Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson follow the clue to the murderer. The war serves as a backdrop to this mystery, and it was enlightening to learn how so many women pitched in on the local farms while the men were away fighting the war.

As this is the fourth in the series, I hope to go back and read some of the others.I enjoyed this one very much.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Interview with Bethany Blake

What is the title of your newest book?

Pawprints & Predicaments

How many books have you published?
So far, I've written four out of the planned six novels in the Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery series, including Death by Chocolate Lab, Dial Meow for Murder, Pawprints & Predicaments, and the upcoming Midwinter's Tail (12/2018). I've also written five novels for young adults and middle-grade readers under the name Beth Fantaskey. Those books are Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, Jessica Rules the Dark Side, Jekel Loves Hyde, Buzz Kill and Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter. You can probably tell which book is for younger readers by the title!

How did you become interested in writing?
I always loved to read, but I didn't know I was a writer until I graduated from college. I had changed majors at the last minute and had no job prospects, so I followed a lead on a position as a writer with a public relations office. I had to take an on-the-spot test, and my future boss said, "Didn't anybody ever tell you that you were born to write?" That's all I've done ever since, as a p.r. writer, a journalist and novelist.

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening, etc? 
I currently have a full-time writing job with Bucknell University, so it's very challenging to find time to write fiction. I used to treat writing novels as my full-time job, getting up in the morning and sitting down at my desk for the entire day. Now I squeeze in personal writing time whenever I can, over lunch, in the evenings and on weekends. Luckily, I love going into my fictional worlds, so I enjoy my extra writing time. It's challenging to find time, though! I will admit that our house is a little bit messy!

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go? 
I plot as I go along. I would never be able to stick to an outline. Sometimes my plot twists come to me as I'm writing. The magic is kind of in the narrative as it comes out. I think it would be much more reassuring to have an outline, but it just doesn't work for me.

Do you use real people and places as models for your books? 
The cute, pet-friendly town of Sylvan Creek is based upon my hometown of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. In fact, the character Moxie Bloom "lives" in my former apartment, above a storefront in a yellow Victorian house. There are lots of other similarities, too. We even love our pets in Lewisburg. For example, I will be attending an event called "Spiritual Readings with Cats" at The Scratching Post Cat Cafe this spring. My characters are a different story. They aren't really based upon people I know--with the exception of sensible veterinarian Piper Templeton, who was inspired by my rational, physician sister. They both always keep a level head--and always win at board games!

Who is your favorite author? 
Charles Dickens is my favorite classic author, and Martha Grimes is my cozy mystery muse. I love everything about her books.

How do you promote your books?
I do lots of giveaways, occasionally make public appearances and use social media extensively. My links are:

I will also be holding a Facebook party on Feb. 27 to celebrate the release of Pawprints & Predicaments. Everyone's invited for fun discussions and giveaways!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Southern Discontent

Running a B&B in Savannah has its benefits and aggravation all at the same time as Quinn and Delilah Bellandini find out. In Southern Discomfort by Caroline Fardig, old lies, annoying guests and much more can make your day unpleasant.

Nothing is more unpleasant than discovering a dead body. That's exactly what Quinn finds when she stops in at her friend Drew's restaurant Green. Dead, with a knife in his back, is Jason, Drew's angry, rude and overbearing brother. As she stumbles to get away from the body, she slips in the mix of debris and blood and lands with a splat. When the detectives arrive at the scene, she is questioned harshly because of the blood on her, but released with a warning that she is a person of interest. 

When Drew is arrested, Quinn goes into overdrive to find out who the real killer is. No matter what she presents to the detectives, they are convinced they have the real killer, even threatening her with being an accessory.

While still trying to operate her B&B, she coerces her sister into helping her try to clear Drew. There
are plenty of suspects even someone from her high school past. When Tucker Heyward moves next door, he brings old memories from a high school drama that included Delilah. Quinn can't forgive Tucker, but he keeps trying to change her mind.

When signs begin to point to Jason's wife Valerie, Quinn discovers she was having and affair and was trying to sell the unprofitable restaurant. Quinn thinks she has found the perfect motive. Butting heads with the detectives throughout her investigation, Quinn soon discovers the killer and finds herself in jeopardy.

Looking forward to more of the Bellandini sisters and their adventures.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Bones to Pick

Brie Hooker, vegan chef, puts her career on hold and moves to Ardon County, South Carolina, to attend her aunt Lilly's wake and help her other aunt Eva on the farm. In Bones to Pick by Linda Lovely a goat farm seems an unlikely setting for a vegan chef. Things get even more complicated when Tammy the Pig unearths a skull and some bones on the farm.

When the skull turns out to belong to Brie's aunt Eva's long missing and abusive husband, Brie is sure there will be more trouble. Nepotism being what it is, the sheriff is related to Jed Watson and it doesn't appear he wants to be impartial in his investigation. Sheriff Jones and Deputy Lawson are no friends of Eva's and would gladly lock her up for murder.

Fortunately Brie's mother is the City of Clemson's attorney and she is able to maintain some order while the investigation progresses. Complicating Brie's life is the appearance of two very attractive men - Andy, the local veterinarian, and Paint, the local moonshiner.

It's not ironic enough that someone named Brie is a vegan, but now she is asked to work on the goat
farm with her aunt. Trying to convert everyone around her to become a vegan is the most irritating trait of Brie. I always find it ironic that vegans are almost evangelical in their commitment to converting people. I don't think people who eat meat try that hard to convert people, or maybe they do.

Anyway back to the mystery. Brie's decision to investigates gets her in hot water when the owner of the nail salon, who happens to be Jed's ex-girlfriend, winds up poisoned after Brie's visit. This doesn't deter her and she coerces Paint to take her to Hog Heaven, a bar where drug deals go down and where Nancy's husband Eli hangs out. He is there even though his wife died the day before.

Brie unravels old land deals, dubious partnerships and a murderer. An enjoyable mystery with some potential for interesting future books in the series.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Keeper of Lost Things

Everyone loses things, but no one collects things like Andrew Peardew. In  A Keepers of Lost Thing by Ruth Hogan, Andrew has found comfort after his fiancee's death decades ago by lovingly rescuing lost objects and cataloging them in his home. As he nears the end of his life, he wants someone to "find" the owners of these various treasures.

Forty years ago Andrew carelessly lost an object given to him by his fiancee Therese. She was killed in an accident on that same day. That event lead him to collect his "treasures."

He hires Laura, a young woman recovering from a nasty divorce, to act as his secretary. She works daily at his lovely old Victorian mansion, but is never allowed into his locked study.

When Andrew dies suddenly, Laura discovers she has inherited the house and all the furnishing. When she finally enters Andrew's study, she is stunned to find hundreds of lost items, carefully labeled with where they were found. 

In his will Andrew stipulates that Laura can live in the house as long as she makes an attempt to return the items. Puzzled as to how she would do this, she enlists the aid of her teenage neighbor Sunshine who has special powers and the handsome gardener Freddy. The unlikely trio set about developing an internet page to promote some of the lost items, asking the owners to contact them.

Among the "treasures" is a jigsaw puzzle piece, a children's white umbrella with read hearts on it, a
fine china tea cup, and most distressingly, the ashes of a dead person. And unbelievably people begin to respond to the posts.

This charming, sweet story of undying love, painful loss and joyous reuniting will bring sunshine and love to combat the bleak and dreary state of the world.

Enjoy a few peaceful hours and see how creatively Laura, Sunshine and Freddy reunite the Lost Things with their owners.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Glass Houses

Louise Penny has been a favorite of mine for many years, and Glass Houses continues her excellent storytelling. Even if you have not read any other of her books, you can jump right into this one and not feel as if you have missed anything.

The lovely peaceful village of Three Pines is a refuge for Chief Superintendent of the Surete du Quebec Armand Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie. His work is stressful and tension filled and Three Pines is an oasis of tranquility far from the madness of police work. Until it is not.

One evening a strange darkly-clad figure appears on the village green and stands for hours. Neighbors encourage Gamache to go and talk to the figure and find out what it wants. He approaches the figure and asks several questions, none of which are answered. Because the figure is not breaking any laws, there is nothing he can do to make the figure move.

After some research, Gamache discovers the dark figure represents a medieval cobrador del frac - a
debt collector. Historically in Spain the cobrador would follow his "victim" from place to place, shaming him into paying his debt. Gamache believes this cobrador is not here to collect a debt, but to frighten someone. Four friend, visiting Three Pines away from their usual time to be there, suddenly seem very worried about the cobrador. In fact everyone in town is becoming paranoid and Three Pines is not the tranquil place if usually is.

Once the cobrador is found dead and its identity revealed, Gamache begins to dig deeper. But there is more going on in the Surete and with Gamache.

Because this is such an intricate plot, revealing too much will give away the true mission. All I have to say is Cortes' quote "Burn Our Ships" factors heavily into the storyline.

If you have not read Louise Penny before, be prepared for a thrilling, tense plot with clever twists and turns. You will not be disappointed in this or any of her books.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Interview with Donna Huston Murray

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published? 

My new release is For Better or Worse, “a cozy mystery with a difference.” It’s the 8th Ginger Barnes Main Line Mystery, and men have suddenly become an issue for Gin—men who mistreat their wives, men suspected of murder, and men who ask her out. The “difference” is some potentially helpful information for women with bad-tempered, controlling partners.

I also have two books featuring young, ex-cop and cancer survivor Lauren Beck, and I’m happy to report that her debut, What Doesn't Kill You, received an Honorable Mention from Writer’s Digest. There is also an earlier traditional mystery called Dying for a Vacation.

How did you become interested in writing? 
I started reading Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series when I was ten and decided writing mysteries must be fun. Turns out it actually is.

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening, etc?
I write throughout the day, interrupted by everyday things like laundry and walking the dog. When I get back to the computer, whatever is on the screen looks fresh, so I’m able to tune it up a little more easily. Recently I’ve taken the advice of independent publishing experts and concentrated on giving my new release good exposure, largely because I feel very strongly about one of the topics the plot allowed me to explore. What I learned about spousal abuse and was able to slip into For Better or Worse may actually help someone.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go? 
When I attempted my first novel, I got to page 50 and couldn’t remember what I’d done with the gun. That told me I should probably plot in advance. Also, mysteries have to be absolutely logical, so planning ahead helps with that. My method, not necessarily unique, is to put whatever I know has to happen on 3 x 5 cards. When there are enough of those, I arrange—and rearrange—them on the living room floor, fill in where necessary, and make sure the tension goes up and down in a wave. Too much tension without a break makes a reader shut the book and not come back—even thrillers give you a breather now and then. Next comes paragraphs on the computer, which I divide into chapters. I don’t have to worry about facing a blank page, because I already know where the story is going. Of course, “pantsers” who don’t plot in advance like to surprise themselves and their readers. It’s whatever works for each author.

Do you use real people and places as models for your books? 
Whenever I meet somebody new, I love to ask what his or her interests are. Learning what a person is  passionate about is my shortcut to discovering their individuality. It’s also my way of collecting characters. That said, I never describe anybody I know in my books. Except for Ginger Barnes, who is very much like me, my characters are inventions of my imagination who just happen to have characteristics that serve the plot.

Who is your favorite author? 
Rex Stout and Gregory McDonald were early influencers. In other words, I aspired to combine my own humor with a solid mystery the way I saw them do it. For pleasure, I read Lee Child and Harlan Coben because I don’t write anything like them and I’m not tempted to edit them in my head.

How do you promote your books?
Online almost entirely. I’ve run promotions to build my email list, and I also offer a free book to new subscribers. I have a website, an author’s page on Facebook and Goodreads, a twitter following that I supplement with askDavid tweets, a LinkedIn profile, and because I love taking pictures, Instagram. I’m working on getting BookBub and Amazon followers. I’ve also entered contests and feel that receiving an Honorable Mention from Writer’s Digest helped get my work noticed. Good reviews help with that, too. I put For Better or Worse on NetGalley and LibraryThing, and did a professional press release that I’ement. You try everything because you don’t know what will work from book to book. It’s the m told was quite widely viewed because it related to the current women’s movnature of the business these days, I’m afraid. Luckily, business is also an interest of mine, a distant second to writing, but it’s essential in today’s publishing climate.

For a review of For Better or Worse, click here. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

In for a Penny

Golf is usually a relaxing way to spend the day, but when Cleopatra Jones skulls her golf ball across the green, it lands in the inseam of a dead banker she knows. In In for a Penny by Maggie Toussaint, Donny Davis was a not-well liked loan officer for the town's bank although he was a close friend of Cleo's ex-husband and deadly enemy of her best friend Jonette. It was definitely murder as he was shot between the eyes.

When the police decide Jonette is suspect number one, Cleo wants to protect her friend and discover who killed Donny. As she starts to investigate, her ex-husband begins to enter the frame as someone who might have a reason to kill Donny.

Cleo doubles her effort to find the killer because as much as she would like to see  Charlie punished for his cheating ways, she doesn't want her daughters to have a convict for a father.

As she digs deeper she discovers some irregularities at the bank where Donny, Charlie and Charlie's
new wife Denise work. Hoping against hope that Charlie isn't stupid enough to go along with one of Donny's schemes, she keeps digging. To distract her for her investigation, it seems the handsome, well known Romeo head pro at the golf course is sending signals that he is interested in Cleo.

As she has sworn off men since her divorce, Rafe becomes a distraction Cleo cannot handle. There was a little too much time spent on this angle of the book and Rafe doesn't seem like to kind of person who would be interested in Cleo. Just saying, and why would she want a well-known womanizer after her cheating ex-husband.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Death al Fresco

Running her own restaurant is an enormous task but Sally Solari keeps getting dragged into the operations of her father's restaurant Solari's. In Death al Fresco by Leslie Karst, Sally is guilted into lending a hand with the sister city dinner her father is planning.

Before the work begins, Sally tries to relax and paint with her friend Eric, overlooking the beach. She notices her dog and another dog pawing at a pile of kelp. As she clambers down to the beach, she discovers a body . . . one she recognizes. It is Gino, an old Italian fisherman and a regular at Solari's.

Sally soon discovers Gino dined with an mysterious, attractive younger woman at Solari's and appeared to stumble out of the restaurant. She knows the staff at Solari's would never overserve someone, some witnesses say Gino appeared drunk.

As public opinion begins to turn against her father, Sally decides
to investigate the mysterious woman, Gino's bocce pals and his boat friends. As if this isn't enough to keep her busy, she discovers her chef Javier is in love and wants to start his own restaurant with his new love. Hoping to avert a desertion, she encourages him to hire his girlfriend and work with her at Gauguin. She also offers Javier a partnership in Gauguin, hoping this will appeal to him.

There's still the sister city dinner to deal with as well as Gino's death, and Sally tackles both until she finds a solution.

I would love to eat in both of these restaurants. They are described so beautifully and the food "smells" wonderful.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Laissez les bon temps rouler

Laissez les bon temps rouler - Let the good times roll, that's the motto of New Orleanians and visitors during Mardi Gras. This is our second trip to Mardi Gras and this time we are riding on the Morpheus float tonight. Can hardly wait!

These are pictures from the Krewe of Muses parade, the Krewe of Chaos and the marching bands. Wednesday night we stood out in the pouring rain to catch a purse from the Krewe of Nyx - caught four! Muses threw shoes, but two guys right next to me caught the shoes - boo.

While you're at it, please follow on the blog. Just click in the column at the right. Thanks