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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review - Murder in Vein

Sue Ann Jaffarian, author of the Odelia Grey Mysteries and the Ghost Granny Apples Mysteries also writes a paranormal mysteries. What better book to review on the eve of Halloween. So where on the scale of Vampire fiction does Ms. Jaffarian fall? Is this series Tanya Huff or Charlaine Harris, L.J. Smith or Stephanie Meyer?

Author: Sue Ann Jaffarian

Copyright: Sept 2010 (Midnight Ink) 336 pgs

Series: 1st in Madison Rose Vampire Mystery series

Sensuality: R rated in parts, kidnapping, assault, adult situations, some swearing

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Mystery

Main Characters: Madison Rose, a twenty-three year old waitress

Setting: Modern day, Los Angeles

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

The story opens in the middle of Madison Rose having been kidnapped after her late night waitress shift. She is rescued from her abductor and finds herself waking up later in an older couple's home. She quickly puts together her memories from the night before and realizes this quirky couple happens to be vampires. They are only two of a Los Angeles community of vampires who are investigating a string of young women being abducted and drained of their blood. They believe Madison was an intended victim, but they still don't know who is behind the murders and why they are happening. The vampires are determined to find who is committing the crimes and pressure Madison to assist them by posing as bait. Not to worry, she will have a vampire back-up. What could go wrong?

Madison Rose has had a rough life, no family and experienced abuse while in the foster care system. She is attempting to make a life for herself as a struggling waitress going to college at night. She has learned to be tough, so she keeps her softer side hidden. Doug and Dodie Deadham, the elderly vampire couple who save Madison appear to be perfect grandparents... if it weren't for the refrigerated blood. LAPD Detective Michael Notchey is a live person who is also indebted to the Deadham's. He helps to keep the Vampire and human worlds in their respective realms. The Vampire Council of California has several members on the Board: Powerful Samuel La Croix is the Chairman of the council, Stacie Neroni is the Vampire attorney, Colin Reddy is the Vampire Don Juan with a few others sprinkled in too.

As part of the investigation, the lurid side of vampire clubbing and vampire wanna-be groups is dived into. This has some disturbing elements of humans who fantasize and romanticize vampires so much that lancing a person and drinking the blood is considered erotic. This dark world is portrayed with a scary side.  Just enough detail is provided without being dark and gross.  The irony is Madison has been brutalized growing up in the foster-care system and maybe in dire danger by these human pretenders while she is moving among actual vampires who are trying really hard to live like humans and not animals they can easily revert to. Other than the vampire club world, the world of Vampires and their self-governing culture is portrayed realistically. I found the characters to be well developed, flawed, and interesting. No sparkly or even highly romanticized vampires here. They are good and bad with real vices and baggage.

The general idea is sound for the murders of these girls in a world where vampires exist secretly. The investigation is believable for the story. The pacing had me flipping pages, so good job there. The killer reveal was tense and the subsequent fall out is sobering. The wrap-up changed Madison's life and was heart-warming.

For me personally, I found this superior to the Sookie Stackhouse books. The character Madison Rose far and away spoke to me more and seemed more intelligent and savvy. The world of the Vampires with the council and their own justice system is a developed idea executed well. I really like the murder and investigation, which was the primary focus. This is definitely an adult series that I found more satisfying than Sookie Stackhouse because of the murder investigation aspects.  I think fans of Tanya Huff's Blood books and Charlaine Harris' True Blood/Stackhouse books will find a kindred spirit in this series.

Rating: Near Perfect if you enjoy gritty vampire fiction - buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.

"Dressing up on Halloween isn't just for kids -- you'll be the best-dressed at any Halloween party with these creative (and simple!) Halloween costume ideas for adults."  These are easy for last minute costumes ideas complete with instructions (click here).

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Guest Post - Daryl Wood Gerber

Please welcome author Daryl Wood Gerber (aka Avery Aames), the Agatha Award-winning author of the national bestselling Cheese Shop Mystery and Cookbook Nook Mystery series.  She is our special guest blogger, so please make her feel welcome.

Don't forget to vote in the reader poll (click here), your opinion is valuable.

What Questions Do Fans Ask You?

People often ask: how do you come up with your plots? I have a very vivid imagination. Very. As a girl, I was often putting on shows…for my family and friends. My sisters weren’t always happy with that scenario. As an adult, now, I often watch people and listen to them, and I think: what if. What if that woman is really a spy? What if that man is having an affair? The question: what if is a great starter for coming up with new ideas. Sometimes, I draw inspiration from reading the news. How about the cheerleader’s mother who wanted everything for her little girl? How about the cop who wound up killing his wife’s lover? Ick, I know, but stories like these happen every day.

Other people ask: how did you come up with the setting for the Cookbook Nook mysteries? I was at a book signing for one of my Cheese Shop Mysteries at a culinary bookshop in Occoquan, VA. The shop was called Salt & Pepper Books. (I’m so sad. The shop has since closed. Luckily, the owner has moved on to a whole new adventure!) Anyway, I fell in love that day. With the display of cookbooks, with the variety of culinary mysteries, and with the darling culinary gift items like salt shakers and peppermills, cutting boards, decorative spatulas, and aprons that she stocked. All of this fed my imagination with a what if I was to create that kind of store. What if the bookshop owner was an amateur sleuth? Perfect, right?

Most people ask: why do you write culinary mysteries? I love to cook. I love eating. I love reading about food. During college and while pursuing an acting career, I catered and ran restaurants, so creating settings in and around food and kitchens comes naturally to me. In the Cheese Shop Mysteries, the protagonist, Charlotte Bessette, is a cheese shop owner in the quaint fictional town of Providence, Ohio. Charlotte adores cheese and loves to cook. In the Cookbook Nook Mysteries, the protagonist, Jenna Hart, a former advertising executive, moves back to the fictional coastal town of Crystal Cove, California to help her aunt run a culinary bookshop and cafĂ©. Jenna, like Charlotte, is an avid reader and foodie, but she’s not an experienced cook. In fact, recipes with more than five ingredients panic her, but she’s determined to learn.

You might ask: why did you make Jenna a non-cook? I based that aspect of the character on my mother, who was a brilliant woman but before graduating high school, she hadn’t learned how to cook. Her mother had done it all. Over the years, my mom taught herself to cook, and subsequently became a wonderful cook. If she were alive today, she would love my choice of career. Among keepsakes I have of hers are a couple of newsletters she wrote for her school in junior high and lovely letters to her grandmother. I’d bet, if given the chance, that she, too, would love to be a published mystery author.

Last question: Do you have lots of other series ready to go? I have lots of novels written. I’m not sure which will get the next green light. For now, it’s enough to have a wealth of ideas. I won’t be able to write or publish all the stories that come to me, but I love the fact that my mind continues to dream them up. A vivid imagination—what a blessing.

What questions do you ask authors?

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THANK YOU Daryl Wood Gerber for that fun post. 

Here are a few simple ideas for your Halloween celebration.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review - Stirring the Plot

This is my first book in the Cookbook Nook mystery series.  I felt it gave enough for me to jump right in without being lost not reading the prior books.  

If you are here for the Spooktacular Blog Hop, click here.

Author: Daryl Wood Gerber

Copyright: September 2014 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 3rd in Cookbook Nook Mystery series

Sensuality: some kissing

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery

Main Characters: Jenna Hart, owner of The Cookbook Nook

Setting: Modern day, Crystal Cove, California

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

The entire town of Crystal Cove is gearing up for the annual Halloween fund-raiser luncheon and fair sponsored and organized by the local Winsome Witches, a women's charity group.  They aren't actual witches, or so they say, but they play up the role for the sake of raising money for good causes.  Pearl Thornton, "head witch" of the Winsome Witches, is a popular therapist.  Shortly after the gang is gathered at her house, Pearl is murdered.  Suspects start popping up including her own daughter.  Initially, Jenna grasps at straws with several very improbable and even ridiculous theories.  Those give way to more realistic ideas as she gains more information about the people in Pearl's life.

Jenna seems to have two personalities.  The rational level-headed Jenna, and the slightly silly Jenna.  Perhaps it was that the rational Jenna acted uncharacteristically at times.  Either way, I don't care for silly Jenna.  Aunt Vera is funny, but silly at times too, and it isn't her age either. Cary, Jenna's dad, is actually the best character IMHO.  He was FBI who now runs a hardware store and has a little edge to him, he fulfilled the "stay away from anybody and everybody, heaven forbid you ask a question -- don't be a sleuth or have any curiosity at all" lines.  Rhett, the boyfriend, seemed nice but was essentially just arm-candy for Jenna without much substance to him, at least in this book.  Thankfully, he wasn't the standard cop for a boyfriend.

Crystal Cove, California is a standard small town with not much to distinguish it.  There are a few hints tossed out that the area has some paranormal energies, but very slight mentions which don't really lead anywhere.  The plot is standard cozy murder and motives, although it does take a little bit before the motive comes into focus.  The pacing is a stroll, on par for a cozy.  The climax had some good tense moments, but was over in a flash.  I would have liked a little more attention on the climax and creating more suspense. 

Rating: Good - A fun read with minor flaws. Maybe read an excerpt before buying. 

Here are several easy crafts for Halloween.  Some of these are great!

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Guest Post -- Hannah Reed

If you are here for the Spooktacular Blog Hop, it is the post a few below (prior) to this review.  Look around a bit, you will find plenty of mystery and suspense book related posts, reviews, and author interviews or guest posts.

Today we have author Hannah Reed joining us.  I reviewed of the debut novel "Off Kilter" (click here) of the new Scottish Highlands Mystery series. Hannah Reed is the pen name of author Deb Baker.  As Deb (her real name) she has authored The Gertie Johnson Backwoods Adventures and The Dolls To Die For Series. Hannah was one of her all-time favorite names. Reed was her great-grandmother’s maiden name. So she put the two together.   Please give a warm welcome to Hannah/Deb !!

The Call of the Highlands

It began as ideas often do, with a small spark out of the blue. Most flashes of insight (also known as moments of insane thinking) sputter and die a quick death. As they should. But sometimes one will ignite and take off, and there’s nothing you can do but go along for the ride. That’s what happened with my new Scottish Highlands mystery series. Once those thoughts came alive and were in motion, I wouldn’t have been able to douse them even if I had an ocean of water. They had to be written.

Mostly, I credit one of my more colorful ancestors, who managed to get thrown out of Scotland in 1685 after his capture and imprisonment in Dunnottar Castle for taking up arms against the king. These days the castle still exists as a ruin, sitting high on a windswept hill beside the sea. This character survived when many didn’t and was shipped to the new world. A real rabble-rouser, that one. Not an uncommon trait in my family line. I believe his adventure was the inspiration for this new series. It fueled my imagination.

And although the weapons have changed in the time that has elapsed between then and now, motives for murder remain the same.

So back to the present and a wee bit about Off Kilter.

Romance writer Eden Elliott arrives in the Highlands only to discover that the local sheep shearer has been clipped with his own shears. She better figure out the motive for his murder and the person behind the deed before she finds herself on the receiving end of more shear terror!

I hope you enjoy your romp through the ‘blades’ of the Highland’s slippery slopes. I know I did.

For more information about the story or about my other tales, visit me at

Praise for Off Kilter:

“Hannah Reed’s new series will please Scotophiles everywhere…” ~ Miranda James, New York Times bestselling author of the Cat in the Stacks Mysteries.

“A brilliant mystery, rich in charming characters set against lush depictions of the Scottish village of Glenkillen.” ~ Jenn McKinlay, New York Times bestselling author of the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries and the Library Lover’s Mystery. 

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THANK You Ms. Reed for that fun post.

Check out these easy Halloween decorating ideas that take
three simple steps to create.  They are easy on the budget as well.  (click here).  These include flying bats, playful pumpkins, and scaredy black cats, these Halloween crafts will be ready in no time. Try one of these easy Halloween decorations to get your home ready for the spooky season.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review - Off Kilter

The interest in all things Scotland is making a return with the wildly popular Outlander books recently turned into a television series on STARZ pay channel.  This new mystery series takes a different approach to the Scottish tartan and bagpipe music laden theme.  Let's see how well the first book in the Scottish Highland mystery series did.  

If you are here for the Spooktacular Blog Hop, it is the post just below (prior) to this review.  Look around a bit, you will find plenty of mystery and suspense book related posts, reviews, and author interviews or guest posts.

Author: Hannah Reed

Copyright: October 2014 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 1st in Scottish Highlands Mystery series

Sensuality: mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Scottish Cozy

Main Characters: Eden Elliott, recently divorced and contracted to author romance novel

Setting: Modern day, Glenkillen Scotland

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Eden has had a terrible year.  Her mother, who she had nursed, recently passed away plus her husband left her.  Her best friend Ami is a romance author and helps her to get a contract to write romance novels, and pays for her to go to Scotland for 2 weeks minimum up to 6 months max as research for her book and a fresh start.  She succumbs to Ami's plans and on the plane trip makes friends with Vicki MacBride who is going to the same small town.  Vicki's estranged father left Vicki his country estate and she is going to the funeral and deal with her inheritance. 

Eden's rental car breaks down and she gets a ride with a local land owner, Leith Cameron, who she decides is perfect to base her book's romantic hero upon.  Her first night she goes to the wake at the pub for Vicki's father, and later Vicki and her stumble over the body of the town's sheep shearer Gavin Mitchell, murdered—clipped with his own shears.  The locals suspect Vicki MacBride and even Eden since they are the strangers in town.  Eden can't believe the friendly and sad heiress is a murderer, but can she be of any help when she doesn't even understand the local police investigation techniques?

Eden Elliot is a refreshing 38 year old divorcee who is intelligent, level-headed, and compassionate.  Her character is delightful as a woman who is reinventing herself and learning to live life a little.  Ami Pederson, Eden's BFF is the bestselling romance author, who even on another continent is checking in and giving input.  Vicki MacBride could be as she appears, a genuinely nice person, or a manipulative murderer as the town's people believe.  Leith Cameron will satisfy Outlander fans
with his masculine good looks and kilts.  The gruff and serious Detective Inspector Jamieson is one of the few policemen that would have worked as a jaded romantic interest.  Special Constable Sean Stevens provides some comic relief in his bumbling, but well meaning ways. 

The highlands, featuring the Whistling Inn B&B in Glenkillen and the MacBride Farm, are more than a setting for the story.  Any book set in Scotland has a hefty job to meet reader's expectations, but this novel portrays a strong working knowledge of the land and its unique personality.  The plot is a good standard whodunit for a cozy.  The pace a few sections that raised interested until the next section that slowed too much, making it feel like a stop-and-start loop at times in the story.

The climax was a great killer reveal that had danger and desperation.  The follow up was full of promise for a much longer stay in Scotland for Eden.

This debut novel for a new series packs a lot into it: the atmospheric Scottish Highlands, an American woman getting a new start in a foreign land and making friends while thrown into the middle of murder.  The requisite highlander love interest is supplied and is more than eye-candy in his kilt.  A great setting, characters you want to spend more time with, and a murder plot that engages all make this a very enjoyable story and great start to a new series. 

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

Now for some fun ideas for Halloween enthusiasts, here is a short video with ten quick and easy ideas.  FYI, it is recommended to use gloves when handling dry ice.

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