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Monday, October 20, 2014

Guest Post -- Hannah Reed

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 hannahreedbooks.com

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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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spooktacular Giveaway Blog Hop




If you are joining us as part of the Spooktacular Giveaway Blog hop, look around and stay for awhile.  We celebrate everything mystery and suspense here - no doubt you can find something of interest!

GIVEAWAY PRIZES:

We are celebrating Halloween here at Mysteries and My Musings with a giveaway for the fourth year!  One combination prize to a winner, 8 winners!


1)  One Potion in the Grave (Magical Potion Mystery) by Heather Black and A Midwinter's Tail (Magical Cats Mystery) by Sofie Kelly

2)  The Legend of Sleepy Harlow (League of Literary Ladies) by Kylie Logan, and Literally Murder (Black Cat Bookshop) by Ali Brandon

3)  Last Wool and Testament (Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery) by Molly McRae and Trick or Deadly Treat (Fresh Baked Mystery) by Livia Washburn

4)  America's Most Haunted: The Secrets of Famous Paranormal Places (non-fiction) by Theresa Argie  and The Last Dead Girl (David Loogan Mystery) by Harry Dolan 

5)   Ghost of a Gamble (Ghost of Granny Apples Mystery) by Sue Ann Jaffarian and From Fear to Eternity (Immortality Bites Mystery) by Michelle Rowen

6)  Death at the Black Bull (Sheriff Virgil Dalton Mystery) by Frank Hayes and Picked to Die (Orchard Mystery) by Sheila Connolly

7)  Gossamer Ghost (Scrapbooking Mystery) by Laura Childs and One Potion in the Grave (Magic Potion Mystery) by Heather Blake

8) A Midwinter's Tail (Magical Cats Mystery) by Sofie Kelly, Plagued by Quilt (Haunted Yarn Shop) by Molly MacRae


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

I will be shipping the books to the winners.

How to enter:

*** First, you must be a member (follower) of this blog.***

All entries are to be in the comments for this post.

I will accept entries for this giveaway until 6:00 p.m (MST) on  Oct 31, 2013.    I shall notify the winner via the email address you provide to get your mailing address and have the prize sent directly to you.  If I don't hear from you in 3 days, I will select another winner and notify them.

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

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

Other participating blogs:







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Monday, October 13, 2014

Guest Post - M.L. Rowland

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

From author M.L. Rowland's website:
"How far would you go to save the life of a stranger? Jump out of a helicopter into four feet of snow? Sleep outside in the winter? Dangle on a rope over the edge of a cliff?

M.L. Rowland has done all of these things and more, all in the line of service as a mountain Search and Rescue volunteer."  Thus, it is fitting that she writes mysteries featuring a woman Search and Rescue member and that she share a little bit about women on Search and Rescue.


WOMEN ON SEARCH AND RESCUE

Search and Rescue has traditionally been a male-dominated field and, for the most part, still is. For about a dozen years, I was a very active member of a very active Search and Rescue team in the mountains of southern California. For almost two of those twelve years, I was the only woman on the team.

One question I’m asked a lot, mostly by women, is what it’s like to be a woman on Search and Rescue.

Some teams have a lot of women members; some not so many. Sometimes this is due to the normal ebb and flow of membership of a volunteer team, sometimes to the demographics of the community it serves and from which the team draws its members, sometimes, in my opinion, to how women on the team (and women in general) are treated.

In my Search and Rescue mystery series, Gracie Kinkaid is one of the only women on Timber Creek Search and Rescue. An excerpt from “Zero-Degree Murder,” the first book in the series: “Ordinarily ten men to one woman might be a to-die-for ratio. But more often than not, Gracie found that working with so many Manly Men for so many hours, often days at a time, took its toll on her. She could take only so much crotch arranging, and fart and blonde jokes before she began to crave a bubble bath or painted her toenails petunia pink.”

On our team, while minimal allowances were made for women on the mandatory physical fitness test, there was no difference in what was required in all other aspects of team membership. To qualify as a SAR Technician, Level II, as required by our team to operate in the field, we all had to pass the same National Association for Search and Rescue written and field tests which included the Incident Command System, tracking, basic survival, search tactics, and land navigation and orienteering.

While operating on a team of mostly men, I never expected anything from them that I wasn’t prepared and able to do for them. In other words, I didn’t expect special treatment based on my gender. I held my own, carried my own weight. I worked as hard as, sometimes a lot harder than, every other member of the team. What I lacked in physical strength, I tried to more than make up for in other ways: training, knowledge, expertise, and commitment.

While on a mission, when lives, including our own, were at stake, I depended on my teammates and they needed to be able to depend on me for anything and everything.

Was Search and Rescue work often difficult and physically demanding? Yes. Was working in close proximity with so many Manly Men challenging at times? Absolutely. Do I ever wish I had done something else with my life during those years on the team? Not for a second!



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THANK You Ms. Rowland, I enjoyed your post.  

Now, in preparation for Halloween, here is a link to the mother-load of stencils and helpful videos to aid in carving that pumpkin!  (click here).






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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Review - Murder Off the Beaten Path


I reviewed the first book in this new series, Zero Degree Murder (click here) but surprisingly I have not  interviewed the author yet.  Even though autumn has descended in my neck of the woods, this book takes us to summer camp!


Author: M.L. Rowland

Copyright: October 2014 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 2nd in Search and Rescue Mystery series

Sensuality: some swearing, sexual assault, R rated in parts

Mystery Sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Gracie Kinkaid -- volunteer search and rescue working at a residential summer camp 

Setting: modern day, mountains of southern California

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

The book opens as Search and Rescue are searching for a teen girl.  The search is sadly called off after a week.  We are then introduced to Gracie's new job working as a ropes and climbing instructor at a residential church summer camp.  It becomes clear that something isn't right at the camp, but when Jett McKenna's car goes over the side of a mountain after leaving a frantic call on Gracie's answering machine, it becomes critical to uncover just what is happening and who is involved.  Gracie begins to realize that she can't trust anybody at camp, not even the pastor director -- and especially not his wild brother.  The more Gracie digs into the dark activities at the camp, she discovers illegal activities, and is in the path of vicious criminals who target her.

Gracie seems to have more baggage this time around, or perhaps she is just terrible at relationships all around.  She makes some progress by acquiring a dog, Minnie, in this outing.  This time some of her actions seem erratic, though. She manages to hurt her dear friend Ralph Hunter. Ralph is a fellow Search and Rescue member and was introduced in the previous book.  Ralph would like to take care of Gracie, but seems to still cling to his deceased wife.  Rob Christian, the mega-star British actor that figured prominently in the last book, is back for a brief appearance in this book.  Jett is the Ponderosa Camp friend who dies when her car goes over the side of a mountain.  She is dark and troubled, trying to find her way.  Brothers Jay, who runs the camp, and Eddie are obviously up to no good, but is it just petty stuff or more serious?

Timber Creek County and Camp Ponderosa's rugged beauty are vibrantly described.  Rowland weaves the wilderness into the story as a character.  The plot is uncomplicated but rather dark, so be warned.  The pacing is inconsistent with a too slow parts then speedy sections.  The climatic showdown has some hair-raising moments that got my blood racing.  Kudos there.  The wrap-up is without cheer and adds more complications to her life.

If you like your suspense characters with a bit more edge and somewhat harder and a few more dark notes in the story telling, this is your book. 

Rating: Good - An intense read, but not suited for everybody. Maybe read an excerpt before buying. 


It is autumn, one of my favorite times of the year.  If you love pumpkin spice flavored coffee, here is a recipe to make your own syrup to flavor your coffee all season.  



Pumpkin Spice Syrup


Ingredients
1½ cups water
1½ cups sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cloves
3 tbsp. pumpkin puree
**If you don't want to measure out all of the spices individually you can use 1 1/2 teaspoons of Pumpkin pie spice instead.


Directions
In a medium saucepan combine sugar and spices, whisking together to incorporate, add water and turn heat on to medium, stir occasionally until sugar is completely dissolved. Add cinnamon sticks and the pumpkin puree. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring often, but do not let the mixture boil. Turn down the heat if necessary. Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes, then strain the syrup through a fine sieve or mesh strainer. If you do not have either, a funnel lined with a coffee filter works well.

Store in Fridge up to 30 days.

To make a delicious Pumpkin Spice Latte, mix a shot of hot espresso with 2 TBS of Pumpkin Spice Syrup and 4-6 oz of hot steamed milk. Top with whipped cream, a dash of pumpkin spice seasoning and a drizzle of caramel.


Recipe from Budget 101 (click here).




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