Saturday, March 31, 2018

Tart of Darkness by Denise Swanson

Cozy mystery readers may recognize Denise Swanson's name from the popular Skye Denison mysteries set in Scumble River, Illinois. Those books became the "Welcome Back to Scumble River" series. Now, she launches a new series that has a few ties to the past, with Tart of Darkness.

When Dani Sloan inherits a mansion from a friend of her grandmother's, she realizes it's the perfect opportunity to open her dream catering business, Chef-to-Go. She's also going to provide sack lunches for college students who attend Normalton University. That may include her three new tenants. Ivy Drake had become a friend of Dani's when they lived in the same apartment complex. But, Ivy and her two roommates were thrown out, and their parents make Dani an offer. If the girls can live with her, they'll pay rent, put in hours helping with her business, and Ivy's uncle, Spencer, will check on the girls once a week.

It all works until Dani reluctantly agrees to cater a luau for Regina Bourne, a rich college student whose parents are out of the country. Before it's all over a drunk young man sets fire to a table, and Regina dumps a tray of drinks over Dani's head. When the spoiled rich girl is found dead the next day, an out-of-control police detective accuses Dani of killing her.

When Ivy calls her uncle for help, Dani finally meets the man who is head of security at the university. He's much younger, and better looking, than Dani had imagined. Once Spencer hears the story of intimidation, he agrees to partner with Dani to find someone who had the opportunity to kill Regina Bourne. It isn't long before they discover that a number of people had reasons to want her dead.

Swanson's first in the new series is typical for the first in any cozy mystery series. The amateur sleuth quits her job, starts a business, becomes a murder suspect, and, sometimes with the help of an attractive man, find the real killer. This time, though, the experienced author has a few differences. The attraction is there, but both the amateur sleuth and her partner in crime-solving fight their feelings because they've both been burned in the past. The biggest difference is in the killer. When the killer is uncovered, there's a great deal of sympathy for the killer rather than the victim.

Tart of Darkness is the first in the new Chef-to-Go series. The premise, with a catering and pick-up business, has a great deal of potential for future crime-solving. And, of course, the college students and college environment always provides scenarios for mystery. We'll see what happens in Swanson's experienced hands.

Denise Swanson's website is www.deniseswanson.com

Tart of Darkness by Denise Swanson. Sourcesbooks Landmark, 2018. ISBN 9781492648383 (paperback), 352p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Winners and The Lemonade Year Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Linda B. from Elk River, MN won Forty Dead Men by Donis Casey. Terry Shames' A Reckoning in the Back Country goes to Aleta A. from Janesville, Iowa. The books will go out in the mail today.

On Wednesday, I reviewed Amy Willoughby-Burle's novel The Lemonade Year. The publicist gave me two copies of the book to give away. This is the story of a messed up family, told by Nina Griffin. Nina's father just died. She's divorced from her husband, and their fifteen-year-old daughter is not at all happy with that situation. Her job as a food stylist and photographer is in jeopardy, and she's spending her time taking pictures of lemons for a book called 32 Ways to Make Lemonade. Her brother is home from prison. And her wonderful sister Lola has memory gaps as a result of a childhood car accident. It's a totally messed up family. And, they're delightful.

If you would like to try to win one of the copies of The Lemonade Year, email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject heading should read "Win The Lemonade Year." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, April 5 at 5 PM CT. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

What Are You Reading?

I can tell you what I have to read now if I want to get the chance. There is a waiting list at the library for Lisa Genova's new book, Every Note Played. Genova's the author of Still Alice. This is the story of a concert pianist, renowned throughout the world. Now, Richard has ALS. His right arm is paralyzed, and he knows his left arm will go next. Three years ago, he and his wife, Karina, separated. She becomes his reluctant caretaker, and, as Richard fades away, the two try to reconcile their past before it's too late. Lisa Genova's books are never easy, but they're worth it.


What are you reading or listening to this week? It's Thursday! It's time to look back and celebrate the books of the last week.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Lemonade Year by Amy Willoughby-Burle

Sometimes, it's the voice. Amy Willoughby-Burle's novel, The Lemonade Year, introduces Nina Griffin, a narrator with a philosopher's voice, a poet's voice, the voice of a woman struggling to find her place in the world.  It's just perfect for this story of a messed up family.

Where did Nina's life take a wrong turn? Was it when her mother drank too much? Was it when her sister, Lola, was hit by a car and her brain became what the doctor referred to as Swiss cheese? Nina's mother poured everything into Lola, and Nina turned to her dad for everything. Nina's brother older brother, Ray, was always angry and took everything out on himself until he ended up in prison. Nina's own marriage? She has a typical fifteen-year-old daughter who doesn't know who to blame when her parents' marriage falls apart, but it's easiest to blame her mother. And, Nina knows her own insistence on trying to have a second child was part of the problem. Then, Nina's father has a stroke and dies.

All of the action in the previous paragraph happens before The Lemonade Year even starts. Nina's a food stylist and photographer whose latest assignment is to photograph images for the book 32 Ways to Make Lemonade. One image at a time, one step at a time, Nina will find a way to make it through this terrible year when her father dies, she and Jack divorce, her daughter turns on her, and her brother, Ray, returns home. Maybe it will take a younger man, the man she unexpectedly kisses in a parking lot after her father dies. Lola's new romance shows promise. Even Ray has hints of hope, if he doesn't mess it up.

It's Nina's voice and Lola's heart that help them through The Lemonade Year. Lola, who uses sticky notes to remember her where things are in her own home, has a gift of lightheartedness and humor. She's a gifted artist who brings love to the story. But, Nina's way with words moves readers along. "I need this release from the grief...I need to find happy again, but I have no idea how to do that." There's the moment when she realizes her daughter is growing up and moving on with her life. "I'm not ready for this. I miss her, and she's still right here."

The Lemonade Year is the story of a messed up family, but there's so much love under the surface. And, it's Nina's account of trying to move through grief and loss and pain to find hope. There's humor and wisdom in this strong novel. Nina's voice is perfect.

Amy Willoughby-Burle's website is www.amywilloughbyburle.com

The Lemonade Year by Amy Willoughby-Burle. Shadow Mountain, 2018. ISBN 9781629724119 (paperback), 352p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - The publicist sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Murder at Half Moon Gate by Andrea Penrose

An emphasis on change and the Industrial Revolution doesn't necessarily mean a book is steampunk. Andrea Penrose's Murder at Half Moon Gate is an intriguing Regency mystery set in London. But, one element in the book is the patent for a mechanical process that could change steam power in England and the world. Those of us who read for character will not be disappointed, though, in the two amateur sleuths in this outstanding mystery.

Lord Wrexford and his friend, Sheffield, are on their way home from a night of gambling when they stumble across a dead body, immediately after the earl had said, "I really don't fancy finding yet another dead body." As they were leaving to find a watchman, the Weasels show up, two young boys, street urchins, who live with Charlotte Sloane. Wrexford knows the widow, who is a successful satirical cartoonist under the name A.J. Quill, will now have more fodder for her pen.

Then the victim's widow shows up to see Wrexford. She reminds him that, in his role as a scientist, he once helped her husband with a problem with iron. Her husband was an inventor and mill owner. And, Wrexford was right in guessing that someone was looking for something when they killed her husband. The drawings for his new design for a process with a steam engine are missing.

Wrexford turns to Charlotte Sloane for several reasons. He asks her to not draw a cartoon about the dead man and missing papers. He's worked with the idealistic woman before, and he knows truth and fairness are important to her. He also admires her intelligence. But, neither of the two are yet ready to acknowledge their mutual attraction.

Murder at Half Moon Gate is an intricately plotted historical mystery. But, it's also exciting, with violence, disappearances, break-ins. The atmospheric story is richly detailed and descriptive. I was drawn to the two amateur sleuths and the two "Weasels". The characters are complex and well-developed, aware of their social standing and class issues.

I'm not going back to read the first in the series, Murder on Black Swan Lane. But, I'll certainly go forward with the next historical mystery in this well-written, entertaining series when Penrose writes the follow-up to Murder at Half Moon Gate.

Andrea Penrose's website is www.andreapenrose.com

Murder at Half Moon Gate by Andrea Penrose. Kensington, 2018. ISBN 9781496710802 (hardcover), 304p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Uninvited Corpse by Debra Sennefelder

Debut author Debra Sennefelder kicks off a cozy mystery series with a story with a well-developed amateur sleuth and a promising cast of supporting characters. The Uninvited Corpse will appeal to readers of Krista Davis' Domestic Diva series.

Hope Early left a career as a magazine editor after her divorce and a stint as a reality show competitor on a baking show. Now, she's back home in Jefferson, Connecticut with a career as a food and lifestyle blogger. In the mornings, she enjoys coffee with a lifelong friend, Police Chief Ethan Cahill. She's busy and content, happy to share an assistant with a good friend, Audrey Bloom. When Hope heads to Audrey's book release and spring garden tour, Hope's sister, Claire, crashes the party. But, it's Hope who wanders into the study at Audrey's house and finds the body of realtor Peaches McCoy. Hope saw the angry reaction of other guests when Peaches showed up uninvited, but the investigating police detective pinpoints Claire as his primary suspect. Peaches had snatched a few deals away from Claire, a fellow realtor, and Claire had threatened to "kill" Peaches. Hope knows her sister couldn't kill anyone.

As a teen, Hope enjoyed solving mysteries at a book group run by a local mystery author, Jane Merrifield. Now, Jane encourages Hope to ask questions and look for the real killer. Hope knows who she saw at Audrey's party, and she alienates friends and acquaintances by probing for answers despite Ethan's warnings. Even another death doesn't take Claire off the suspect list. That murder only encourages Hope to continue to look for a murderer.

Sennefelder's debut mystery in the Food Blogger series has an amateur sleuth who comes with an interesting, original background. She's surrounded by characters who seem to have a more established relationship with the protagonist than in many debuts. The book comes with the recipes and pet that seem to be required with many books. But, it's the background and characters in The Uninvited Corpse that promise an intriguing new series.

Debra Sennefelder's website is www.debrasennefelder.com

The Uninvited Corpse by Debra Sennefelder. Kensington. ISBN 9781496719920 (paperback), 368p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.




Sunday, March 25, 2018

Interview with Debra Sennefelder

Debra Sennefelder is a debut author. I really enjoyed her first mystery, The Uninvited Corpse, which I
review tomorrow. In fact, I liked this cozy mystery so much, I wanted to talk to Debra.It's my pleasure to introduce you to Debra Sennefelder.

*****
Welcome, Debra! Because you're a debut author, I'm sure most of my readers don't know you. Would you start by introducing yourself?


Thank you for having me here today, Lesa. I’m the author of the new cozy mystery series, Food Blogger Mysteries published by Kensington. I live in Connecticut and am a full-time writer. A few years ago I began a food blog, The Cookbook Diva (I’ve since then closed down the website), when I took a break from fiction writing. After a couple of years I decided that I wanted to go back to writing fiction and pursue publication. After a few completed romantic suspense novels I had the idea for a cozy mystery revolving around a food blogger. I went with the idea and wrote the first draft of The Uninvited Corpse. When I’m not writing I can be found either baking, which I love, hanging with my two Shih-Tzus, Susie and Billy, curling up with a good book or tackling a workout. 

Would you introduce us to Hope Early?

Hope Early is a food blogger who stumbles into solving murders. When The Uninvited Corpse opens she’s still settling into her fixer upper and building her food blog into a full-time career. Just prior to moving back to her hometown, she had a stint on a reality baking show. She didn’t win, rather she ended up divorced and unemployed. With her life turned upside, she made the decision to move back to Jefferson, Connecticut. Starting over in the place where she came from sounded like a good idea until she got caught up in a murder investigation. 

Tell us about The Uninvited Corpse, without spoilers.


 
Hope attends a garden tour hosted by a close friend and the event is turned upside down by the arrival of an uninvited guest, real estate agent Peaches McCoy. By the end of the day, one of the guests has committed murder, and Hope’s sister, Claire Dixon, is a suspect. She and Peaches were professional rivals and text messages reveal a deep animosity between the two women. Hope is determined to prove her sister innocent. But the closer she gets to the truth, the closer she gets to the killer intent on making her the next corpse du jour.









This is your first mystery. What has surprised you about the publication process?

I’ve been writing for several years and I have many friends who are published so over time I’ve learned a lot of what to expect from the publication process. One of the things that surprised me was how long it took from the contract to the publication date. I received my contract offer in November 2016 and the book releases on March 27, 2018. That’s a long time.

You were a blogger before you became a mystery author. How have you incorporated that background into The Uninvited Corpse?

I use my experience to give an authentic feel to Hope’s character. I’ve written scenes where you’ll find Hope in the midst of recipe testing or filming a video for her You Tube channel or taking a class to improve her skills. These are all things food bloggers do on a regular basis. I also add in some angst because it sometimes seem that there’s never enough time to do all the things that need to be done or enough comments or likes on social media. 

You also have a second mystery series coming out next year. Would you tell us about that, and how the idea came about?

The second series, Resale Boutique Mysteries, grew out of a short story I wrote years ago. I’d been trying to get the story published in a mystery anthology but it was rejected. I liked the characters and the town so I decided to expand it into a book. Murder Wears a Little Black Dress, which releases in January 2019, is about Kelly, a twenty-something fashionista who’s recently unemployed and inherits her grandmother’s old and tired consignment shop. She has her own ghosts of the past to deal with by coming back home and there’s a black dress in the shop that’s associated with a murder. Like Kelly I attended fashion school and worked in a department store before moving to Connecticut. So it was a nice fit to write about Kelly and her world.

How are you juggling your time to write two series and maintain your life?

It can get a little crazy at times but I’ve always been organized. I rely on my day planner and set achievable goals for each day and week. It does help that I’m a full-time writer so my time isn’t shared with a day job any longer. 

What authors have been your greatest inspiration or of assistance to you?

My critique partner, Ellie Ashe, has been a tremendous help to me over the years. Working with her has made me a better writer. The cozy author community is a wonderful group of people and I’ve been welcomed into it. Sherry Harris has been very kind and generous to me since I announced my sale to Kensington. Katherine Hall Page has been an inspiration to me over the years. I remember discovering her Faith Fairchild Mystery series at our now-closed local bookshop. I look forward to each new installment of the series

What author isn't as well-known as you think they should be?

That’s a tough question. There are so many authors that I adore. The first author that springs to mind is a relatively new author. Bethany Blake writes the Lucky Paw Pet Sitting Mystery series for Kensington. After reading her first book, Death by Chocolate Lab, she’s become one of the authors I automatically buy when a new book comes out. 

My final question, because I'm a librarian, is always the same. Please tell me a story about you and a library or librarian.

I’ve always loved libraries. I grew up in New York City so our branch library wasn’t small and I don’t recall the librarians who worked there. Being an only child, I’ve always been independent so I didn’t participate in any programs, I just wanted to find a book to read. My mom would let me wander around the stacks while she waited patiently for me. Probably the best thing about the library was the opportunity to explore and learn because I was a kid using the library before the internet. The librarians were my search engines. I’ve always appreciated the work they do and fully support libraries. I can’t imagine a world without libraries.

*****
Thank you, Debra, for taking the time to answer questions. Debra's website is http://debrasennefelder.com/

Check back tomorrow when I have a review of her first book, The Uninvited Corpse.








Saturday, March 24, 2018

Really Important Stuff My Cat Has Taught Me by Cynthia L. Copeland

Sounds like a fluffy book filled with cat photographs, doesn't it? Actually, Cynthia L. Copeland's Really Important Stuff My Cat Has Taught Me is filled with as much solid advice as most self-improvement books, and more than some. In addition, readers do get all those wonderful cat photographs.

Copeland's chapter headings offer advice, but the photos and accompanying text explain each chapter. "Be the exception" says that "Progress is achieved when familiar patterns are broken." But, the author has fun with her own advice. As she says, and the cats illustrate, it's "Just more fun to be weird than it is to be ordinary."

Chapter two illustrates something we often forget as we rush through day-to-day life. It's entitled "Take it all in." Copeland says cats observe the world around them, and cultivate the time to be alone. She suggests that time for quiet reflection is necessary. It's not just cats that illustrate the importance of alone time. Albert Einstein, Mozart, and Nikola Tesla are all used as examples of people who appreciated quiet contemplation.

I could explain all the chapter headings, such as "Let your mind wonder" or "Add whimsy to the world." I could also quote cat lovers such as Mark Twain and Winston Churchill. But, why? There are enough hints to show you that cats are wise in the way of life and philosophy. Observations of cats would provide all of us with some wisdom.

If you get a chance, pick up Really Important Stuff My Cat Has Taught Me. I picked up my copy at the library, so maybe your public library will have a copy. Who can resist those adorable photos?


Really Important Stuff My Cat Has Taught Me by Cynthia L. Copeland. Workman Publishing, 2017. ISBN 9781523501489 (paperback).

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - library book

Friday, March 23, 2018

Winners & A South Central Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Sandy O. of Milford, OH won Bel, Book and Scandal. Diane Kelly's Death, Taxes, and a Shotgun Wedding will go to Natalie S. from Hyde Park, MA. The books will go out today.

Let's head to the South Central section of the U.S. for this week's giveaway. The first book I'm giving away is Doris Casey's latest Alafair Tucker mystery, Forty Dead Men, set in Oklahoma. Alafair's son, Gee Dub, has returned from World War I, but he's not exactly the same young man who left. When Gee Dub finds a young woman crossing their property in the rain, he has her mother offer her shelter. Then, he becomes caught up in Holly's story of marrying a soldier before he left for war. When Holly's husband is found shot to death, Gee Dub is a suspect. But, Alafair will always fight for one of her children, especially one who is suffering.



Or, you could travel to Jarrett Creek, Texas with Terry Shames' Samuel Craddock mystery, A Reckoning in the Back Country. It's Thanksgiving, and many of Sheriff Craddock's staff is not available when a doctor goes missing, and is then found murdered. Craddock's investigation is hindered by his unfamiliarity with the man and his family, and the local residents who are keeping secrets. Craddock juggles rumors of dogfighting, his murder investigation, and even a possible romance.





Oklahoma or Texas? That's all you need to say in your subject line to enter either giveaway. I do need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com with subject lines that read either "Win Oklahoma" or "Win Texas." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway ends Thursday, March 29 at 5 PM CT.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

What Are You Reading?

I could tell you all about the books on my TBR pile. They've been waiting while I met my Library Journal deadline. But, here's the book Josh wanted me to read last night, Really Important Stuff My Cat Has Taught Me by Cynthia L. Copeland.




I don't remember books like that until Robert Fulghum came out with All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I loved that book. I used to use it for Readers' Theater. This book is broken down into chapters of advice with photos of cats providing simple examples of "Be the exception", "Take it all in", "Let your mind wonder". It should be fun.




What are you reading or listening to this week? I hope you're enjoying it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Stop You're Killing Me!

Several months ago, when I told Charlotte, one of the blog's faithful readers, about the website Stop You're Killing Me!, she suggested I mention it here. She said there may be other readers who don't know about my favorite website.

The website says, "A website to die for...if you love mysteries", and it truly is. If you're looking for a mystery series, in order, with a link to the author's website, check here first. It also says, "Stop, You're Killing Me! is a resource for lovers of mystery, crime, thriller, spy, and suspense books. We list over 5,0000 authors, with chronological lists of their books (over 58,000 titles), both series (5,900+ and non-series." I have to say, though, that I use it most often to find the next book in a series.


Looking for a list of award winners? You’ll find the Edgars, Agathas, Macavities, and others listed. You can only remember the name of the character you like, but not the author? The index for the site is by author or character. Are you looking for a mystery set in the 1920s? Try the Historical Index. Find mysteries set in Arizona or Italy. That’s the Location Index. There’s a Genre Index to help you find Police Procedurals or Thrillers.There's a Diversity Index if you're looking for series characters who are Seniors or Gay or Lesbian.
Lucinda Surber and Stan Ulrich do a fantastic job with Stop, You're Killing Me! As I said, it's my favorite website. Everything a mystery reader could want, all in one place.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I Am a Cat by Galia Bernstein

Once in a while, I come across a children's picture book that I love and want to share. I'm going to read Galia Bernstein's I Am a Cat to a group of third graders next month. I know it's a picture book, but its subtle message of diversity and similarity is too good not to read to my kids.













Simon is a cat. When he meets a group of cats, he introduces himself, and tells them he's a cat, "Just like you!" Here's their first reaction.



And, their second reaction.



The lion, cheetah, puma, panther, and tiger tell Simon he's nothing at all like them. But, Simon points out that none of them resemble each other, so how can they all be cats? When the lion points out the features they have in common, all the large cats realize Simon has small, perky ears, and a flat noise, and long whiskers, and a long tail, and sharp teeth and claws, "and big eyes that can see in the dark".

Despite the difference in size and coloration and abilities, Simon is just like the big cats.

Need I say more?

Galia Bernstein's I Am a Cat marks her debut as an author and illustrator. I love the facial expressions on her cats. I can't wait to share this book with my kids.

Galia Bernstein's website is www.dancingkangaroo.com

I Am a Cat by Galia Bernstein. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017. ISBN 9781418726439 (hardcover).

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


Monday, March 19, 2018

Have You Heard? - A Toxic Trousseau by Juliet Blackwell

Sandie Herron caught my comment that I was reading Juliet Blackwell's A Toxic Trousseau, and she reminded me that she had reviewed the audio book. Thanks, Sandie. Here's her review of the last Witchcraft Mystery.

A TOXIC TROUSSEAU                                                          
Witchcraft Mysteries #8
Written by Juliet Blackwell, Narrated by Xe Sands
Unabridged Audiobook
Listening Length: 7 hours and 41 minutes
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Audible.com Release Date: July 5, 2016
ASIN: B01HN2KI7M

Vintage clothing dealer Lily Ivory almost stumbles down the stairs 
from her second floor apartment to open Aunt Cora’s Closet only to 
open the front door and be served papers!  Autumn Jennings had 
visited Lily and her shop and had bothered Lily’s witch’s familiar 
Oscar in his public persona as a miniature pot-bellied pig so much 
that he head butted her!  She fell into a rack of clothing but was 
none the worse for wear until she decided to sue Lily.

Trying to avoid the suit altogether, Lily visited Autumn across town.   This time Autumn looked rather ill and confused.  When Lily referenced the suit, they both went upstairs to Autumn’s apartment where Lily notices what appears to be a complete vintage trousseau.  Autumn spoke of the items being cursed and how the curse went back several generations.  The curse had been placed on one of Autumn’s male relations plus anyone born of the same line. It was a coincidence that found the trousseau for which  Autumn had spent decades searching.

The next day when Lily returned with some scrumptious cupcakes, she found Autumn dead upstairs.  Cause of death was the clothes from the trousseau!  Cursed or deliberate poisoning?  Plus now there was a charming dog with no owner.  As Lily and the women in her shop looked for a new home for the dog, they found a friendly dog park where they politely gathered more information and met more people involved in this peculiar case.

One of Lily’s best workers had a birthday for which her beau treated her and her entire coven to sleep over at a haunted house once owned by a very wealthy widow.  The woman had been renovating when her husband died, and she could never stop construction.  The mansion had 75 bedrooms, 6 kitchens, and 10,000 windows.  Along as protection for the coven, Lily and her beau Sailor, found doors opened onto walls and other peculiar features of the house.  When they inadvertently went to an area denied visitors, an alarm sounded in the caretaker’s home, who struck up a friendship with the lovebirds when he came to investigate.

Did I mention that Sailor’s nemesis Aidan, head of the magical community in San Francisco, left on a trip and left Lily in charge for which she needed his well-worn leather satchel.  The Mayor’s private number was included along with many slips from people who owed Aidan for some favor or deed.  Others feared the Satchel.  It held quite a lot of power that Lily might have known if so much else wasn’t going on in her life..

All of these items were figuratively blended and brewed until Lily figured out who was responsible for many of the calamities going around.  I was shocked when the main perpetrator revealed herself.  Enough clues had been dropped throughout the book that a more astute reader would have put to the open case, especially when the curse hit another outside the family.  Unfortunately, I did not so did not determine who the killer was until it was revealed in the book.  Lots of fun with full impact hitting me as it hit Lily!


I consider Xe Sands one of my favorite narrators.  Different characters have been given subtle changes from each other but never so much that could be considered overdone. She can switch gears from catching the murderer to a romantic scene that leaves Lily utterly speechless to another scene that leaves Aidan out of sorts.  It all makes up the eighth book of the Witchcraft Series by Juliet Blackwell.  Now, I need some juju to help me wait for number nine!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Where I've Been

No video today. Instead, I'm going to invite you to a couple blogs where I've been spending time this weekend.

I've raved about my friend Kaye Wilkinson Barley before. She's my roommate for mystery conferences and even in Paris. We're already planning Bouchercon in Dallas next year! She was kind enough to invite me to read on her blog, Meanderings and Muses. Kaye's doing a feature called "Inside My Book Fort" in which she reads favorite passages from books. I'm sharing an essay from one of my all-time favorite books. Stop by to see what it is! http://bit.ly/2DAjcvS

With Kaye in Paris


I was also at Jungle Red Writers with several blogger friends, Dru Ann Love and Cathy Cole. Author Jenn McKinlay invited us to talk about the three books we're anticipating in 2018. Stop by for our lists, and the lists of several readers who commented. http://bit.ly/2IsBxPi

Once in a while, it's fun to appear on someone else's blog.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Irish Pub by James Fennell & Turtle Bunbury

What better book for St. Patrick's Day than The Irish Pub by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury?
Fennell is the photographer of this gorgeous book with 201 color illustrations. And, Bunbury is the historian and writer who tells the story of a representative thirty-nine pubs in Ireland.

To tell the story of Irish pubs, the pair traveled to over 700 pubs through all thirty-two counties of Ireland. Then, they picked a small group to "celebrate, and document, pubs that epitomize that essential charm of old Ireland." According to the authors, the oldest pubs in the book date to the 17th century, and some of the most recent were built in the late 1990s when the economy was exploding.

The authors break the book into three sections. "Urban Retreat" features the more metropolitan pubs from the 19th and twentieth centuries. The threatened pubs are the ones in the chapter "Rural Charm". These are the more traditional country pubs, closing at a rate of one per day as of 2008 when the book was published. Bunbury explains the economy, the ban on smoking in public places, and the crackdown on drinking and driving have all combined to hurt the traditional pubs. The final section features four pubs, "Contemporary Heritage". Those pubs, created more recently, in the authors' opinions, reflect the best of Irish tradition.

Dark wood, large or small pubs, former groceries, centers of music. In their books, the authors attempt to capture a disappearing Ireland. They make the comment "The upshot is that if you want to see what a traditional Irish bar looks like, you might have better luck in Chicago or Sydney than in Dublin, Galway or Tipperary." But, I think they've found some to write about and photograph. As I said when I reviewed Vanishing Ireland, Bunbury's words are pure poetry. The stories and pictures in this book are magic, capturing pubs that exemplify Ireland for some many of us.

James Fennell's website is www.jamesfennell.com. Turtle Bunbury's website is www.turtlebunbury.com. There's also a Facebook page that salutes many of the people of Ireland, a page called Vanishing Ireland.

The Irish Pub by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury. Thames & Hudson, 2008. 9780500514283 (hardcover), 192p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my copy of the book.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Winners and Cozy Wedding Blues

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. Kara M. from Adrian, MI won The Lost Order. Deanna S. of Carlisle, MA will receive Breaking Point. The books will go out in the mail today.

This week, I'm giving away cozy mysteries involving weddings. The first is Death, Taxes, and a Shot Gun Wedding by Diane Kelly. For IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway, this case is personal She and her soon-to-be-husband are preparing for their wedding day. But along with all the RSVP cards are a series of death threats from an unknown source. Tara has run across too many lawbreakers to narrow down the list of suspects.






Belfast McGrath is the chef at Shamrock Manor, her family's wedding center. Bel, Book and Scandal by Maggie McConnon finds Bel helping with wedding planning while looking into a story from her own past. Bel has been unable to forget the long ago disappearance of her best friend, but a newspaper clipping sends Bel on a search. Amy Mitchell might still be alive.

Which wedding mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Those titles are long, so let's use the authors' names. Your subject line should read either "Win Kelly" or "Win McConnon." Please include your name and mailing address. The giveaway will end Thursday, March 22 at 5 PM Ct. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

What Are You Reading?

Thursday, Thursday! I look forward to Thursday all week. I love to see what you're all reading.

I'm playing catch-up. I'm reading Juliet Blackwell's A Toxic Trousseau because A Magical Match, the next one in her Witchcraft Mystery series, is out on April 3. Somehow I missed A Toxic Trousseau. It's a cozy mystery series featuring a witch who runs a vintage clothing shop in San Francisco. As much as I like Lily Ivory, I love her familiar, Oscar. When he's around other people, he takes the form of a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig.

What are you reading or listening to this week? We're interested!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sandie's Corner - Dead Cold Brew by Cleo Coyle

When Sandie Herron first started sending occasional reviews to Lesa's Book Critiques, we called it Sandie's Corner. Then, she switched to reviewing audio books for "Have You Heard?". Today, she has a book review for us, last year's Coffeehouse Mystery, Dead Cold Brew by Cleo Coyle, now out in paperback. Thank you, Sandie.

Dead Cold Brew                                                                             

By Cleo Coyle (Alice Alfonsi & Marc Cerasini)
Berkley; Paperback reprint edition (March 6, 2018)

“Friendship has no legal status.”  Clare Cosi didn’t know what significance that statement would have when her boyfriend, New York City Detective Mike Quinn, pushed her back into the shadows of The Village Blend, the coffee shop Clare co-managed.  A sniper was taking shots at New York’s finest including Mike and his squad.  When one member of the squad was hit, Clare and Mike went to the hospital after the paramedics, and the nurse would talk to Mike as commanding officer, but she would tell Clare nothing since she was “just a friend.”  

Clare’s ex-husband Matt Allegro, also co-manager of The Village Blend, brought Clare a newspaper about all the recent cop shootings as well as news of a special opportunity.  Clare had recently created an exquisite coffee blend with the many kinds of coffee that Matt scouted around the globe.  Available on a limited basis, the Billionaire’s Blend held just the qualities the owners of the newly replicated Andrea Doria were seeking.  An exclusive blend was needed for her maiden voyage; could Clare do it?

While the cop shootings remain unsolved, Clare enticed Mike to an evening of sheer delight after a 36-hour shift.  She began to ask him to propose again while Mike began to break things off for a while to help her worry less.  She professed that she would only worry more.  What will they do now? 

In researching the possible Andrea Doria coffee blend, Clare went straight to a good source: Matt’s Italian godfather, Gus Campana, who was on the ship when it sank.  In today’s world Gus is a world-famous jeweler running his family business in the Diamond District of New York City.  It seemed odd that shortly after that visit, Matt received a summons to meet an attorney in the massive complex of vaults embedded in Manhattan’s bedrock underneath the Diamond District.  The summons was issued on behalf of Gus Campana and Silvio Allegro, Matt’s godfather and father. What could they have had in common that would bring this attorney, Matt, and Gus’ daughter Sophia together sixty years later in a tiny room of private safe-deposit boxes guarded by Lyons Global Security guards?

If you want to answer these questions and more, enjoy this 16th entry in the coffeehouse mystery series by Cleo Coyle, real-life husband and wife team Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini.  I asked them the oft-asked question about a series – “Do I need to read them in order?”  Their answer is no.  They told me what this means to them:  “When we sit down to write a new Coffeehouse Mystery, we do our best to provide enough background on the characters and storylines to give longtime readers a quick refresher and new readers the chance to enjoy our work without feeling lost … anyone can feel comfortable picking up each book as standalone reads.”    I believe they do a beautiful job of this by writing an intriguing mystery with charming characters in a city large enough to house any number of stories.  I think this series has longevity because the authors make each entry a self-contained story but leave the long-term relationships flowing from book to book.  Each book carries a different theme while they all engage in a bit of social satire and have a biting sense of humor.  


We even get a clue what is coming up since for the first time, the paperback release of DEAD COLD BREW includes a bonus teaser of the first chapter from the 17th in the series – SHOT IN THE DARK due out April 17, 2018.  All I’m going to say is don’t miss it!