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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review - Ghost Ship: A Port Chatham Mystery

This week we make a trip to Port Chatham Washington for a murder in the current and in 1893 that are somehow connected.

Author: P. J. Alderman

Copyright: February 2011 (Bantam) 368 pgs

Series: 2nd in Port Chatham Mysteries

Sensuality: historical brothel and mention of occurrences, sprinkled cursing

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal cozy

Main Character: Jordan Marsh, a psychologist recently relocated from Los Angeles who sees ghosts everywhere.

Setting: both 1893 and Modern day Port Chatham, Washington

Obtained Through: Library Find


Jordan is on a strenuous walk (read forced march) on the Dungeness Spit with police chief Darcy Moran. Not only does she find Holt Stillwell, the town Don Juan, dead but she finds that her abilities to see ghosts now extends to seeing the "spirits" of downed ships. Interestingly Jordan sees the ghost ship of the Henrietta Dale that ran aground very close to that area and Holt Stillwell was descended from the ship's notorious owner Michael Seavey. The scuttlebutt over the ages claims that a false light imitating the lighthouse purposely led the luxury ship to its death.

By the time Jordan makes it home she finds Michael Seavey's spirit in her house trying to court Hattie, one of her resident ghosts. Hattie must decided between two suitors, both dead. Hattie insists that Jordan find out the circumstances to Michael's death to make up for having said bad things about his character. Jordan is very reluctant to investigate, but having shanghaier Seavey's ghost around makes her uneasy, no matter how suave he is. Thus she starts looking into old records to unravel who led the ship to its watery grave and who murdered Seavey even after he survived the wreck. She becomes convinced that Holt Stillwell's death was connected with the sunken ship and begins unearthing the details of Seavey's last months alive. But her investigation is angering the living and she gets threats and even a break in.

Jordan was an okay character for me. I am rather neutral about her, she wasn't great and yet she wasn't terrible either. I thought it was interesting that Jordan has a hard time walking or driving because she doesn't want to hit the spirits she sees - of course townspeople are known to dress in period clothing which doesn't help her distinguish the living from the dead. For a psychologist she did not come across as having much polish that I would have expected from such a serious and educated professional. I will concede that she had moved recently so she was out of her element, she was recovering from the last story in which her ex-husband was murdered and she is doubting her abilities as a psychologist. I get all that was happening for her, but she still came across a touch immature like a college kid caught breaking dorm rules and explaining herself.

The romantic interest in the story is Jase, a former high profile celebrity who lives next door and owns the local watering hole. The story makes it clear that they are not even dating yet, just mutual interest that Jase is willing to take to the next level. I was starting to warm up to Jase's character, until he starts demanding Jordan not get involved because it could be dangerous. If you have followed this blog much you know I can't stand the main character getting harassed over sleuthing when that is the entire point to the whole story.

With the first pet peeve down let me get the second one out of my system. I grew tired of "when are you just going to sleep with him and get it over with" attitude that occurred several times in the story. Speaking for myself, that isn't "romantic", that is just hormones on a page. This would be one of those instances where, as a psychologist I would have expected more maturity from Jordan and the others. I felt there were several missed opportunities for romantic moments that could have occurred between Jordan and Jase that just didn't. It is as if there is no spark because it is so expected they will hook up so why bother with any of the heart pounding stolen moments or romance.

I did like how some of the story was told from Michael Seavey's perspective in 1893. It brought the mystery of who among many people would have wanted the charming Opium smuggler dead. I found I liked those scenes because I was looking for clues to add to what Jordan was finding.

The plot itself mixed the past and present for two murders to solve that had a connection in the present. I enjoyed guessing who I thought did it and why in both instances, and I was mostly correct. This is an entertaining lite read with a clever concept of mixing past and present, and where the ghosts are mostly the comic relief. The combination is a pleasant beach read that cozy fans should enjoy.


Here is a short video of the Dungeness spit where the mystery starts.  It is an excellent location to imagine ghost ships and a body washing up.





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Monday, September 26, 2011

Banned Book Week

This year's Banned Book Week has a great idea that I hope takes off.  It is called the Virtual Read-out and it encourages participation during the week virtually.  

I love incorporating video with the blog and this idea of a virtual community exercising their freedom to read joins people from all corners.  What a great way to get involved and feel a part of a movement.  There are already several videos loaded, several by young adults and children.  

I included information from the website http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/ website for your convenience:

Join the Virtual Read-out! The centerpiece of this year’s Banned Books Week celebration (Sept. 24-Oct. 1) is a virtual read-out.

Since the inception of Banned Books Week in 1982, libraries and bookstores throughout the country have staged local read-outs as part of their activities. This year, for the first time, readers from around the world will be able to participate virtually in Banned Books Week, Sept. 24 – Oct.1. During this year’s celebration of Banned Books Week, readers will be able to proclaim the virtues of their favorite banned books by posting videos of themselves reading excerpts to a dedicated YouTube channel.

Everyone is invited to create a video of themselves reading from their favorite banned or challenged book and upload it to a special Banned Books Week channel. Videos of challenged authors and other celebrities will be posted on both YouTube and our Videos page in coming days. More information about the read-out is available here

You have two video options for the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out:
1) You can submit a video no more than two minutes long of a reading from a banned or challenged book. Here is a list of banned literary classics as well as a list of frequently challenged books throughout the years. You should also check out Mapping Censorship and Robert P. Doyle's Banned Books: Challenging Our Freedom to Read for more ideas. Banned Books: Challenging our Freedom to Read is available for purchase at the ALA Store or can be found at your local public library.

2) A video of an eyewitness account of local challenges can be submitted. This video should be no longer than three minutes long.

How to upload your videos

You will need a YouTube or Google account in order to participate. Once you have one, please sign into YouTube and follow their instructions on how to upload a video. A video tutorial on how to upload onto YouTube can be found here.
As the video downloads, you will need to update the Title, Description, and Tag fields with the following information to help ensure that your video will be featured on the Banned Books Week Read-Out channel:

Title
The title of your video should include "Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out." A good example is "A reading from The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-out" or "Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out: A reading from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Description
You may use the description to explain why the book you chose to read an excerpt from is your favorite banned/challenged book or offer more details about an eyewitness account of local challenges.

Tag
The most important part of the download is the tag. Please tag your video with "virtualreadout" to ensure that the video will be featured on the Banned Books Week You Tube Channel.

Final Step

Once you have posted your video, please send e-mail with the subject heading "Link for the BBW Virtual Read-Out!" to bbw@ala.org with the link to your video. The video will then be featured on the Banned Books Week YouTube channel. Please allow a couple days for your video to be featured on the channel.




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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review - Naughty in Nice

This week I review the newest book in the Royal Spyness series set on the French Riviera complete with a French Marquis and Coco Chanel thrown into the mix.  I was looking forward to reading this addition to the series and it does not disappoint.  I don't think I have ever referred to a murder mystery as a rollicking fun romp before, but this book fits that description plus some.

Author: Rhys Bowen

Copyright:  September 2011; Berkley Hardcover; 336 pages

Series:  # 5 in Royal Spyness Mysteries  

Sensuality:  Innuendo and some mild adult references 

Mystery sub-genre:  Historical Cozy/Amateur Sleuth

Main Character:  22 year old Lady Georgiana Rannoch, thirty-fourth in line to the throne of England

Setting:  1933 French Riviera

Obtained book through:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Lady Georgia is miserable in London in the middle of a bone-chilling winter, with her tightwad brother "Binky" and his pregnant bully-wife "Fig" taking residence at Rannoch Hall.  Georgie is nearly starving but stands out in the cold to volunteer at the soup line rather than stay at the house with her belittling sister-in-law.  Eventually the cold dreary weather gets to Fig and she manages a trip to the Nice on the French Riviera, expecting Georgiana to stay behind and close up Rannoch house - leaving her without a place to live as well as no money or food.

Fortunately the Queen calls upon Georgie and decides she must re-acquire an expensive diamond studded snuff box that a guest stole during a royal function.  The Queen knows the man who did it and he is staying in Nice as well.  While Georgie is there, maybe she can keep an eye on her cousin, the Prince as he is running around with that American married woman.  The Queen pays for Georgie's train fare and she is off with her inept maid.  On the train she makes friends with an old acquaintance of the family, Vera Bate Lombardi and her good friend Coco Chanel. Yes, that Chanel!

Once in Nice, she finds that she is not welcome at all with her brother.  They expect her to tutor their children and be a full time baby sitter for them.  Georgie can't get back that snuff box at this rate.  She is out for a walk and encounters Vera and Coco who insist she must come stay where they are because there will be room for her.  Georgie discovers her mother owns the Villa that Vera and Coco are staying at.  Her mother is escaping the cold winter in Germany and the rising political tensions.  The best thing, her mother's villa is next door to Sir Toby Gropper - the man who stole the Queens snuff box.

When Coco Chanel insists that Georgie model her final piece in a fashion show that will be graced with the Queen's diamond and pearl necklace, the reader just knows disaster is going to strike.  Georgie falls off the cat walk and the Queen's necklace is stolen in the confusion.  Georgie has to find the necklace in addition to retrieving the Queen's snuff box.  Of course there is a murder that the french police suspect Georgie for. Oh, and then there is the smoking hot French Marquis, Jean Paul de Ronchard, who is persuing Georgie to keep things hot and interesting. 

Georgie was sparkling in this addition to the series and hillariously funny. She never gives up no matter how bleak or impossible the situation, which can make for some outrageously crazy situations.  I have only read one other book in this series and I had not been introduced to her mother before who is the opposite of Georgie, breezy, self-centered and a party girl who likes rich men.  I loved the character of Coco Chanel who was avaunt-garde, yes, but unexpected in other ways.  Jean Paul was a great character and I have to wonder if he will show up in another book to give Darcy more of a challenge for Georgie's affections.  Darcy was not as present in this book which will be hard for the Darcy fans, but Jean Paul spices things up.

The plot was good and I was surprised by a revelation that Georgie uncovers in her investigation.  The murderer and thief I only partially figured out, and did not get the motive for the murder right at all.  I think this book will be a turning point in the series from the way some things were left.  Will Georgie still live at Rannoch House or will she have to find someplace else to live? Will Darcy be more serious toward Georgie and so on?  And the Queen's snuff box?  You will have to read it to find out about that.  I will say one of the scenes that had me crying from laughing so hard had to do with that expensive little collectable.

When you are having a really bad week and things are getting you down, turn to this book and it will have a smile on your face in no time. This is the book you want to read when you need to laugh so hard you are snorting!  If laughter is the best medicine then this book should be prescribed for everybody's better health.  I don't think I have ever laughed so much over a book.  This book has a solid murder mystery to solve, a thief to unveil and enchanting characters to delight and entertain.




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Monday, September 19, 2011

Libraries and Hurricane Irene

Today I am spreading the word of a situation that blogger Kate Messner alerted her readers to. This news has even made it to NPR.  Hurricane Irene did a lot of damage and has left many families worse for the experience. Irene also caused severe damage to small rural libraries - the children's sections specifically.

I know that everybody has tightened their belts and libraries have been hit hard. During a crisis like hurricanes, books often bring comfort momentary escape from the situation to children, which makes this loss even worse. If you can help, even be sharing this with friends or family, please do.

From Kate's blog:

Quick How-to-Help Info: Several libraries have lost their entire children’s sections due to flooding in Hurricane Irene, and we’re teaming up with independent bookstores to help them rebuild. Want to help? Either send a check to the library OR call the bookstores. They’ll help you choose a book based on the library’s needs and will store it for them until they’re ready, or you can donate to a gift card for the library.
To help the West Hartford Public Library in Vermont

Send a check to:
West Hartford Public Library
P.O. Box 26
West Hartford, VT 05084
OR
Contact local independent bookseller The Norwich Bookstore at 802-649-1114. to purchase books and/or contribute to a library gift card.

To help Wells Memorial Library in Upper Jay, NY

Send a check to:
Wells Memorial Library
P.O. Box 57
Upper Jay, NY 12987
OR

Contact local independent bookseller The Bookstore Plus at 518-523-2950 to purchase books and/or contribute to a library gift card.

On October 22nd, they’re going to host an evening reception where book lovers of all ages and members of Lake Placid’s vibrant arts community can come purchase books for the library.  It’ll include author/illustrator appearances and (we hope) a silent auction of original art from children’s book illustrators.   

Authors and Illustrators may also donate signed books and original art for an October fundraiser. Send an email to kmessner at kate messner dot com.

Authors: If you’d like to donate a signed book, that would also be most welcome!  Please mark clearly on the envelope “FOR SILENT AUCTION”


Here’s the bookstore address:

The Bookstore Plus

2491 Main St

Lake Placid, NY 12946

Thanks!!


Here is the link to the original post (Click Here).


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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review - Hard Spell

This week Ken reviews a rather hard boiled Mike Hammer meets Dragnet mixed with the paranormal.  In this reality vampires, ghouls, goblins, werewolves, and witches all exist and have legal rights.  Ken really got into the spirit of the book (no pun intended) as you will find out.

This is a grittier book than is usually reviewed here with swearing, some gore, and a rough-around-the-edges policeman (Mike Hammer's attitude, even with women), but sometimes it is good to mix it up a little. After all, Halloween is approaching.  Bwa ha ha!  This book will also be one of the offerings in the Spooktacular Blog Hop giveaway at the end of October.


Title:  Hard Spell 

Author:  Justin Gustainis

 
Copyright:  2011; Angry Robot (distrib. in the U.S. by Random House, Inc.); 382 pgs. 


Sensuality:  Violence, Language, some gore (probably an "R" rating)


Mystery sub-genre:  Police Procedural; Urban Fantasy 


Main Character:  Stanley Markowski, police detective  

 
Setting:  Present day; Scranton, PA


Obtained book through:  Author for an honest review

He carries a badge.  He’s like Joe Friday (played by Jack Webb) of Dragnet fame (“All we want are the facts, ma’am”) but with a lot more humor that goes along with his dry-wit and heart-felt emotions.  Stanley Markowski is one of Scranton, Pennsylvania’s finest. 


Stan takes us on a “ride-along” as we experience his life as a detective with an extra-ordinary unit.  You see, life is not normal in his world.  He not only carries a badge and a 9mm Beretta but also silver bullets, a crucifix, a few wooden stakes, and some holy water.  Markowski tells us America has been having to deal with the supernatural element for over 50 years, and Scranton has a “live and let unlive” relationship with the supes.  No more just lions and tigers and bears, oh my… More like werewolves, vampires, ghouls, goblins, trolls, and witches.  Some of these supes can be rather sensitive.  Officers must be trained in the proper manner, customs, and protocol to use when dealing with the various species.  For example, it is very important to know when it is okay to use cuss words.

He’s a street-smart detective with the Occult and Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit – the Supe Squad.  When things go bump in the night or a vamp puts a bit into crime, the savvy and dedicated Supe Squad are the go-to guys and gals.  They’re supported by SWAT; not your typical door bangers with high-powered weapons, this bunch are called the Sacred Weapons and Tactics Unit and their unique arsenal includes splash-bang grenades.

Markowski and his trusted long time partner, Detective Paul di Napoli take a nasty robbery/hostage call involving some meth-head goblins.  SPD consultant and white witch, Rachel Proctor, is called upon to unitize her special skills in ending this situation.  Unfortunately, due to circumstances and a lapse in proper procedure, Paul is killed.  


Stan gets a new partner.  Karl Renfer is an experienced street cop, but an untested new detective.  He strikes me as being kind of like Dragnet’s Bill Gannon (played by Henry Morgan), the witty but intelligent sidekick to Joe Friday.  Karl appears to be a very competent law enforcer, but his courage might be questionable. 

Then the “fun” begins.  They respond to a call reference some Satanists holding sacrifices.   Turns out to be a human sacrifice and demon summoning ritual.  Markowski gets grabbed by a Hell spawn, but Renfer arrives in the nick of time, grabs one of the cultists, and yells, “Here’s dinner, Hellfu(#!”  Stan is saved and any doubt as to Karl’s courage is laid to rest.     

Next they catch a really bad one – a gruesome torture-murder.  It’s unusual in that the victim is a supe.  George Kulick was a wizard.  An open safe, but money left intact.  What was taken?  Who and what really was Mr. Kulick?  After several days of investigation, no leads, no evidence, and no witnesses, the case had reached a dead end.  Only one thing to do – necromancy, which is legal with a court order.  Rachel does the ritual.  It worked…it didn’t work…a wisp of smoke, the outline of a man, then poof!  Rachel collapses.  Magic gone bad?  Rachel in hospital heavily sedated and comatose.  Poof again, and Rachel just disappears.  How, why, where?

The murder investigation continues.  Old and cold Ernst Vollman shows up.  Strange character; claims that Kulick was killed because he was the guardian of an ancient and sacred artifact – the Opus Mago.  A forbidden book containing potentially deadly magic, rituals, and conjurations for invoking and controlling the darkest powers. 

Another murder – ritualistic, sacrificial, occult symbols carved into flesh.  How many more sacrifices will turn up before the killer is run to ground?  What insane ritual is the killer trying to invoke?  For what purpose?   


Some weird informants an other interested parties join the supe soup pot.  There’s the irony of Christine, Markowski’s daughter.  One cannot leave out the Witchfinders – the men in gray.  Where’s Rachel?  

New leads develop-some hinky, some like a slinky, and some like a switchback on a mountain road.  Add some possession (and not of the druggie kind), some hoodoo and woowoo, some rock ‘em and sock ‘em, and you’re brought to one hellistic and ironic conclusion.  But then, you know, the Devil’s definitely in the details.

One great read!  Sam Spade, Mike Hammer, and Dick Tracy better watch out.  Vivid prose with colorful details and gritty descriptions.  Cop talk with some cussing, some bawdy language, some gore.  Fast paced, meaty action and dramatic twists and turns laced with humor.  Many “unique” characters. Magic, mayhem, and spells bouncing all around.  Kicks like a splash-bang grenade!  Justin Gustainis has given us one of the best supernatural cop stories I’ve ever read.   


You know  it wouldn't be complete with a book trailer video (rated PG)!

 

Because there were the Dragnet references 
I had to share this classic!






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Monday, September 12, 2011

Book Adventure for Children

I am a firm believer in children reading books.  I loved books as a child so I always had a book.  But reading is a challenge for some and they need extra encouragement and nurturing in this area.  There have been many studies done and research on how being a reader makes for a better student, not just till high school graduation, but for life.  

Reading opens up a world that allows a person unlimited access to knowledge.  Even if a person can not afford college, they can learn about the world and cosmos through books.  A reader can easily improve their skills and  capabilities with a free library card.  I give books to any children on my holiday list to promote their creativity, logic skills, comprehension, and even their sense of curiosity.  Yep, I'm a regular reading cheer leader.



When I found Book Adventure by Sylvan Learning, I just had to spread the word.  Book Adventure (http://www.bookadventure.com/home.aspx) is a free, online reading program for children in grades K-8 with the goal to help kids learn to love reading through interactive tools, games and motivational rewards.

In the Kid's Zone there is
- a book finder by grade level or an area of interest like mystery
- encouragement awards for reading
- online and printable games and
- resources to help children read better
- collect reading points and get prizes

Parent's Place allows the parents to see how their child is doing and be a part of their adventure and resources to keep your child motivated. 

The Teacher's Lounge contains many free tools to assist in the classroom - how great is that!
 - Find a book: Search for books or create a booklist for your students.
 - Prize Library: Create a prize for your classroom or approve prizes your students have earned.
 - My Classroom: Keep track of all the students in your classrooms, create contests and teams, develop quizzes and reading reminders for students and more!
 - Reports: View reading reports and create letters you can send to your parents to highlight a student’s reading progress.
 - Quizzes: Find and preview a quiz or view samples of reading quizzes.

I hope this is a helpful resource to any parents or teachers out there.  Reading is one of the educational fundamentals that we can't let slip for the sake our children's futures.

Since I love including videos - here is a short clip on tips for encouraging reading.

 

Check out Tail Waggin' Tutors Reading Program (click here) to find out how therapy dogs help children read.  My two favorite things together, pets and reading!





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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review - Sweet Revenge

Welcome to September, back to school and fall is approaching (at least in these parts).  Today we are time traveling to Regency England for a mystery featuring a unique heroine and lots of chocolate!


Author:  Andrea Penrose

Copyright:  April 2011 (Signet) 336 pgs

Series:  1st in  Lady Arianna Hadley Mystery

Sensuality:  light romance, heavy innuendo and period cursing

Mystery Sub-genre:  Historical Amateur Sleuth, Cozy

Main Character:  Lady Arianna Hadley, although a lady, her father was disgraced and died when she was 15 and she had to make her way alone and penniless in the world.

Setting:  1813,England

Obtained Through:  from publisher for an honest review


Since her father was murdered when she was fifteen, Lady Arianna lived through hellish times to survive, with her driving goal to find her father's killer and make him pay pushing her on. Which is why she is disguised as a French chef in Lady Spencer's home gathering information for her revenge. Her plans are interrupted when somebody attempts to poison the Prince Regent using her chocolate desert. Somebody felt the chef was the easy target to set up for such a treasonous act and Lady Arianna is now under scrutiny.

Alessandro De Quincy, the Earl of Saybrook is enlisted by an underhanded government official to investigate in spite of his war injury to his leg. Nevertheless Saybrook had been in the intelligence branch during the war and is sharp and devious. He sees through Arianna's disguise, just in time to save her from a bullet. He decides that she can be of use in the investigation and they reluctantly join forces to determine who tried to kill the Prince and why.

While this had all the ingredients to have been a good regency romance, the author kept the romantic tension in the background and focused on making a suspenseful mystery which paid off exponentially. Arianna is a heroine that you route for immediately. She has been through the school of hard knocks and survived with vengeance driving her. She picked up many skills along the way including the use of disguise from a theater group and especially how to fight dirty to survive. She has hardened herself and believes that she has no heart anymore after the things she has had to do in life. Trust does not come easily at all, and she sure doesn't trust the aristocrat Saybrook, after all, it was an aristocrat that murdered her father.

Saybrook has never been the same since the war and his injury. The assignment tossed to him by the government is clearly to let him be the fall guy for any missteps in the investigation. Saybrook takes this new lease on life and is inspired to get to the truth and not be used as a convenient scapegoat. The Saybrook character is just complicated enough with glimpses of his personal pain yet fire for life.

The plot has plenty of twists and surprises making it suspenseful. Who killed Arianna's father is not who anybody expected and that goes for the person who made the attempt on the Prince's life. The motivation for all this becomes clear as the story plays out.

The climatic confrontation with the killer is a nail-biter and gets the blood pumping, so kudos there. I must confess I didn't expect this level of writing, plot and character development that was balanced and polished throughout. I feel this should have been released in hardcover and spotlighted by the publisher more.

This novel contains drama, mystery, intrigue, adventure, smuggling, an influential criminal ring, history, sharp wit, and a touch of romance all blended seamlessly. I found this novel easily rivaled the Sebastion St. Cyr series and for me may (may) have even out done it. If you enjoy historical mysteries with plenty of suspense and intrigue, Sebastion St. Cyr, Charles Lennox, the gaslight mysteries with Sergeant Frank Malloy, or the Lady Emily mysteries I think you owe it to yourself to read this novel.
 




Some chocolate history

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - September 2011

It is the first Monday of the month - time for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival.

Happy Labor Day to all you hard working folks, enjoy a day intended to draw attention to the working person and acknowledge your invaluable contributions. My heart goes out to all of the multitudes of unemployed, I hope you find work soon.   


Below is the line-up for our carnival.  Click on the title or author's name to go to that link.

Police Procedural / PI Book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed the historical investigation novel The Beloved Dead by Tony Hays and shares "The enduring legend of Arthur is mixed with political intrigue and a serial killer for a suspenseful medieval tale."

Shelf Love reviewed The Gyrth Chalice Mystery by Margery Allingham and shares "features the rather Wimsey-esque sleuth Albert Campion with loads and loads of excitement."



How Mysterious! reviewed The Water's Edge by Karin Fossum.



Fair Dinkum Crime reviwed The Diggers Rest Hotel by Geoffrey McGeachin and says "The winner of the Australian 2011 Ned Kelly Award for best crime fiction. Set in rural Australia after World War One in a world that even in remote Australia will never be the same."



It's a crime! (Or a mystery…) reviewed An Agent of Deceit by Chris Morgan and shares it "was recently longlisted for the CWA’s Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for 2011 and this first novel has been compared to the work of Le CarrĂ©."



How Mysterious! reviewed The Risk of Darkness by Susan Hill


 Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Death Cloud by Andrew Lane and shares "I feel that Andrew Lane is creating a young Sherlock that will easily live up to the daunting legend of the established and loved adult Sherlock."

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed The American Cafe by Sara Sue Hoklotubbe and shared "If you enjoy Tony Hillerman, Craig Johnson, or Margaret Coel I would highly recommend this book."


Booking Mama reviewed The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie as part of her cool down with AC challenge.

Thoughts in Progress reviewed Murder by Mocha by Cleo Coyle.

Beth Fish Reads reviewed English Tea Murder by Leslie Meier

Book of Secrets reviewed A Sheetcake Named Desire by Jacklyn Brady.  She shares "In addition to the interesting mystery and great characters, I really enjoyed the rich descriptions of the sights and flavors of New Orleans."

Mysteries in Paradise reviewed Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker.  She shares "This is the first in what is currently a series of two. Set in France in the town of St. Denis. It portrays a village style of policing. A very enjoyable read if you like cozies."

Thoughts in Progress reviewed The Cosy Knave by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen.

An American Editor reviewed Fatal Liaison by Vicki Tyley and says "I call her the Australian P.D. James."




Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed The Jefferson Key by Steve Berry and shares "this book contains all the essential elements including action and adventure, murder, mayhem, subterfuge, spy and counter-spy, secrecy, political intrigues." 


Booking Mama reviewed the historical thriller The Borgia Betrayal by Sara Poole.



Mysteries in Paradise reviewed Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves.  She shares "This is #4 in Ann Cleeves' Shetland Quartet and really the best of the lot. You do need to read all four in order though to get the best out of them."



Rundpinne reviewed Long Gone by Alafair Burke and says it "is a tantalizing and taught suspense thriller that will take readers on an exciting journey".



Booking Mama reviewed The Devil Colony by James Rollings (A sigma Force Novel) and shares "Rollins combines violence, suspense, superstition, history, and science in a very good action thriller. This is a large 474 page novel that moves quickly with plenty of shooting, explosions and volcanic action."



Reactions to Reading reviewed Until Thy Wrath Be Past by Asa Larsson and shares "Almost a fairytale for adults this is crime fiction at its haunting best."



Rundpinne reviewed Creep by Jennifer Hillier and says "In this psychological thriller, Hillier has made her first mark in the suspense genre an extraordinarily memorable one."



Thoughts in Progress reviewed Silent Enemy by Thomas W. Young.



Booking Mama reviewed The Sixes by Kate White.  She says "THE SIXES had a great mystery, intriguing characters, and lots of suspense; and it honestly kept me guessing until the very end."


Author Interview


Kings River Life interviews Avery Ames




Mysteries and My Musings interviewed Sara Sue Hoklotubbe



Thank you to all the wonderful bloggers out there who contributed to the carnival.


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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review - The Broadway Murders

The "roaring twenties" were an era that, while brief, left an enduring image in our minds.  New York was the epitome of this madcap time with speakeasy bars, fashion, literary celebrities, corrupt cops, mobsters with panache and the glamor of Broadway.  Even the language was rife with hip lingo and snarky wit.  It was an exciting time and a whirlwind of changes in every aspect of life.  This week we indulge our imaginations and join this "wild and crazy" time in a book that features Dorothy Parker, one of the literary celebrities of the day as the sleuth.

Author:  Agata Stanford

Copyright:  June 2010 (Jenevacris Press) 320 pgs

Series:  1st in  Dorothy Parker Mysteries

Sensuality:  n/a

Mystery Sub-genre:  Historical Amateur Sleuth

Main Character:  Dorothy Parker - based on the American poet, short story writer, critic and satirist,  known for her wisecracks

Setting:  1920s, New York

Obtained Through:  Library Find

A well known Broadway producer is found dead with the appearance of having choked on a small tomato. Dorothy Parker remembers that Reginald Ignatius Pierce, RIP, is allergic to tomatoes and she is instantly suspicious.  Dorothy drags a willing Robert Benchley to the deceased's rooms above his theater to investigate.  They find that Reginald was a collector of Egyptian antiquities, and that they aren't the only ones sneaking in to look around.  Hidden behind velvet draperies, they watch while first an Oriental man and then an actress search the room. 

The authorities have not recognized Reginald's death as a murder, but they can't deny foul play when the lead actress in Reginald's play is found in Reginald's Egyptian sarcophagus.  Another death follows soon after.  Three murders and Dorothy, with the help of fellow members of the lunch club that became known as the Algonquin Round Table, doggedly follow clues.  Some of the members are the most recognized and celebrated reporters in NY and they start digging up plenty of information on suspects, but how it all fits together is elusive.  There is a missing Egyptian artifact from Reginald's collection that may have been stolen from an archeological dig that might explain Reginald's death but not the other two.  

This book is presented in a slightly different manner.  Sprinkled throughout are pictures of the NY landmarks that play a significant role in the story and pictures of members of the Algonquin Club.  I found this added to the illusion that the reader was entering Dorothy's world.  Additionally, the writing style affects the breezy language and popular slang to further transport you to that era when jazz artists and flappers coined modern terms.  It is a heady mix and an escapist pleasure.

Dorothy is presented with wit and sarcasm sprinkled with tremendous insight. The life she lived is believably recreated including the escapades of the Marx Brothers, the late nights of theater and dinners, even the famous speakeasy they drank at all serve as backdrop to the investigation.  I appreciated that Dorothy's reported affairs are not highlight in this story, rather she is a wounded soul who relies on her friends as her most cherished part of life. 

The supporting cast of Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, Columnist Frank Pierce Adams, "The New Yorker" creator Harold Ross, and the Marx Bros. are all portrayed with humor and a nod to their historical reputations.  Dorothy's Boston Terrier named Woodrow Wilson is pure delight.

The mystery has its interesting twists and I did not see the underlying theme for the murders until it was revealed.  Although it seems the story contains a fair amount of mad-cap rollicking, I was surprised that there are no frivolous scenes, there was always a clue or a person that would be important later.

I enjoyed my trip to New York's roaring twenties era and will be returning for another dose, soon I hope.  Agata Stanford has captured the excitement of New York and the wild twenties with humor, a solid plot, never dull characters, mixed with large dashes of danger and adventure.


Before summer is gone I wanted to share this amazing recipe.
Raspberry Cheesecake Cookies

Ingredients

    1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
    1 egg
    1 (17.5 ounce) pouch sugar cookie mix
    2/3 cup raspberry baking chips

Directions
 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

NOTE: the raspberry baking chips are available on Amazon if you can't locate them locally.  Otherwise you can add & beat in 2 teaspoons of raspberry extract to the egg/cream cheese mixture, then the cookie mix per the instructions... fold in some white chocolate chips.

In a bowl, beat the cream cheese until soft and fluffy with an electric mixer, then beat in the egg until thoroughly combined. Mix in the cookie mix, then stir in the raspberry chips. Drop the dough about 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets with a tablespoon or small scoop. Lightly pat the cookies to flatten.
   
Bake in the preheated oven until the edges of the cookies are lightly golden, 9 to 12 minutes. Cool before serving.

From AllRecipes.com by Mis7up.




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