Thursday, October 31, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Poisoned Prose

Poisoned Prose (Books by the Bay Mystery - Book 5) by Ellery Adams

Publication Date: 10/01/2013
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley Prime Crime
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 304
ISBN-10: 0425262952
ISBN-13: 978-0425262955

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Ellery Adams on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

A Killer Plot (2010), A Deadly Cliche (2011), The Last Word (2011), Written in Stone (2012), Poisoned Prose (2013)

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.



Excerpt from Poisoned Prose, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.

Synopsis:

When Olivia Limoges and other Oyster Bay patrons of the arts sponsor a retreat for famous storytellers, one of them is going to have a very unhappy ending…
 
Olivia thought gathering some of the most renowned storytellers in one place would be a nice, simple way for herself and the Bayside Book Writers to appreciate their talents. But things take a dark turn when the most famous storyteller in the nation—the captivating performer Violetta Devereaux—announces onstage that she will meet her end in Oyster Bay.

When Violetta is discovered murdered after the show, everyone involved with the retreat becomes a suspect. There are rumors that Violetta, who grew up in extreme poverty in the Appalachian Mountains, possessed an invaluable treasure. Now Chief Rawlings and the Bayside Book Writers must work at a frenzied pace to solve the crime before someone closes the book on them.


Thoughts:

Ellery Adams continues her Books By the Bay series, with Poisoned Prose, the fifth installment. Adams centers her stories around a group of writers, detailing their struggles and successes as they try to sell their work. Readers who love a good mystery will certainly find it here, as a storytelling retreat provides the backdrop for murder. Adams shows the ups and downs of the writing process as well as the those of the small town of Oyster Bay. With a charming setting and characters that readers enjoy coming back to again and again, this is perhaps the best book in the series to date!

This is just one of the series' that you need to read altogether to get the full affect. Each book can be read as a stand alone, but I think readers really miss out on a lot of the back stories and nuances that make this series so good when they read them out of sequence. The Bayside Writers group is a set of characters that have shared a great deal of history throughout the previous books in the series. They have been through thick and thin as well as murder and in the latest installment, Poisoned Prose, a lot of life altering decisions are being made, some good, some bad. But none of that has as much significance without taking this series as a whole.

Poisoned Prose centers around a storytelling retreat which brings several of the countries greatest storytellers together in Oyster Bay. I loved this whole idea. Since my girls were in grade school, all of the students have taken part in the local storytelling festival and it has become a wonderful tradition here in our community. It's something we look forward to every year and I got that nostalgic feeling when reading about the retreat in this book. I liked the fact that Violetta was such a remarkable character. An Appalachian storyteller who is passing down the stories told by her father and grandfather. I would loved for her to somehow survive, so we could have learned more about her, but Adams knows what she's doing. The story was realistic and very interesting.

The mystery of the missing treasure and the story of Violetta's life made for a very intriguing mystery. The suspects were not all, who I thought they would be and I liked the fact that the victim had ties to residents of Oyster Bay as well. It provided connection and a reason for Olivia and the Bayside writers to be so involved in the case. I liked how each member of the writers group contributed their own part in the investigation. It goes to show that this series is not just focused on Olivia as a main character, each writer has a part and that's what makes this such a good series. The motive was pretty plain after a while and I had it narrowed down between two suspects, but couldn't pick until the killer was revealed. A great mystery in this one, I think it's the best of the series so far.

I liked the fact that Adams was easily able to balance the book between the mystery aspects and the relationships between the members of the writing group and the rest of the inhabitants of the town. There are so many things going on in the personal lives of these characters. I liked the fact that Olivia is finally open to the idea that perhaps she isn't meant to live her life alone. I liked the development of the relationship between her and Rawlings and I think that means a new direction for the series, as well as, other defining moments with other characters. There were a few times when tears about got me with this one. But sometimes things have to change in order to keep a series current and refreshing. 

Overall this was an excellent book. From the mystery to the personal stories, it has depth and is very believable. Adams was able to solve the crime, and keep readers invested. I loved all of the tips of the writing trade that are always imparted in these books and I think I'm going to have to start a critique group of my own. Adams makes writing seem like what it is... hard but worth it. I think that's the best part of the series.

Poisoned Prose is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag! 



About the Author:

Ellery Adams grew up on a beach near the Long Island Sound. Having spent her adult life in a series of landlocked towns, she cherishes her memories of open water, violent storms, and the smell of the sea. Ms. Adams has held many jobs including caterer, retail clerk, car salesperson, teacher, tutor, and tech writer, all the while penning poems, children’s books, and novels. She now writes full-time from her home in Virginia.


Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Poisoned Prose by Ellery Adams.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US Addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, November 14th.

1. Please leave a comment describing any writing efforts you have made, whether it's an article or the Great American Novel.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Review: The Wrong Billionaires Bed

The Wrong Billionaire's Bed (Billionaire Boys Club - Book 3) by Jessica Clare

Publication Date: 10/15/2013
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Intermix
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance
Pages: 258
ISBN: 978-1101623558
Format: e-book, digital

(Received for an honest review from Intermix via NetGalley)

WARNING: This is an erotic romance and is not appropriate for readers under the age of 18 years.

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, Kobo

Jessica Clare (aka. Jill Myles) on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

Stranded with a Billionaire (2013), Beauty and the Billionaire (2013), The Wrong Billionaire's Bed (2013)

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.




Excerpt from The Wrong Billionaire's Bed, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.

Synopsis:

The Billionaire Boys Club is a secret society of six men who have vowed success--at any cost. Not all of them are old money, but all of them are incredibly wealthy. They're just not always as successful when
it comes to love...


Audrey Petty's always been the responsible one. The good twin.  Successful, dependable, and trustworthy--that's Audrey. She'd be the perfect girlfriend for her
childhood crush, billionaire Cade Archer...except that she's pretty sure she's not even on his radar. But when fate (and her chaotic twin) come together, Audrey finds out that she'll be spending the next month with Cade at his remote cabin retreat. It's a dream come true...

Until she meets her worst nightmare.


Billionaire playboy Reese Durham is used to seducing women to get what he wants. But when stiff, too-proper Audrey bursts into the private mountain lodge and scares his companion out the door, it's time for a
little revenge. It's clear that Audrey's in love with his buddy, Cade...and it's clear to Reese that blackmailing Audrey with this information can get her to agree to just about anything. Like furtive kisses in the dark, or a secret rendezvous in the woods. Audrey may think she knows what she wants, but Reese is determined to show her what she needs.

And as Reese discovers the volatile minx behind the buttoned-up exterior, he starts to think maybe she's just what he needs, too.


Thoughts:

Jessica Clare's adult contemporary romance series, the Billionaire Boys Club continues with her latest offering, The Wrong Billionaire's Bed. Clare's trademark steamy dialogue and romantic situations bring this story to life. In this classic 'good twin'/'bad twin' scenario readers are introduced to Audrey and Daphne Petty,two twins who couldn't be more opposite. Audrey's buttoned up appearance is hiding an inner wild streak and it takes the right billionaire to bring it out. The sexual banter between Audrey and Reese will have readers chuckling as well as fanning a few flames. A great addition to this wonderfully erotic adult series!

The weather outside might be frightful, but this is one novel that requires a cold drink and a strong air conditioner. Jessica Clare once again brings the heat with her latest book in the Billionaire Boys Club series. The Wrong Billionaire's Bed can easily be read as a stand alone, but why would you want to do that, when you can read all of the exciting and sexy stories Clare has cooked up. The Billionaire Boys club is a group of six men who have vowed to be successful no matter the cost. They meet weekly to discuss business and pleasure. Each book focuses on a different billionaire and readers will be thrilled to read, Reese's story.

Reese is the consummate playboy. He doesn't want to settle down he's having way too much fun. But when he unexpectedly meets Audrey Petty, everything changes. I loved Reese's character. He was arrogant and annoying and down right insufferable at times. He knew what buttons to push to get the reactions he was after in business and in pleasure. But when he sees the way Audrey takes care of her sister and the way she looks at his friend Cade, Reese has a longing he has never experienced before. What would it take to make her look at him that way? I loved the way Clare makes Reese the playboy, but completely blindsides him with real love. He was fun to read and a great alpha male hero.

Audrey appears in this series from the beginning and her character is developed over time. She is the good twin. The responsible twin. The twin who fixes everything. And that's never more true than in her relationship with her sister. She is loving and caring with Daphne despite her repeated issues with drugs and alcohol. I liked the fact that Audrey appears on the surface to be prim and proper, but when she finally let's go, she is able to find her inner sex kitten. She has been blinded by a crush she has had on her childhood friend Cade for years. But when a love/hate relationship starts to simmer under the surface with Reese, she finally comes unglued. Clare writes Audrey as a responsible young woman who needs some fun in her life and she certainly finds it here.

The chemistry between these two characters is amazing. They sizzle on the page together. The banter and dialogue that Clare writes for them is a combination of irritating jabs and sexual innuendo's that will have readers looking for the nearest fan. The sexual tension is ripe with these two right from the beginning. There are several intense love scenes between them that keeps racketing up until they nearly explode. I personally thought there were a few too many of these scenes in this one. I prefer a book that has a bit more story vs. sex. But that's not to say that other readers might disagree. I thought the scenes were extremely well written and easily got the response the author was looking for.

I liked the whole back story between the twins and Cade and I suspect that this one is gearing up for a romance between Cade and Daphne. Daphne has a long way to go to be a good fit for Cade but that's the beauty of writing. The author has a challenge here to possibly make readers like Daphne in an upcoming book. I'm looking forward to seeing if that's the route Clare takes in forthcoming books. 

Overall this was a very good erotic romance. The story was believable in as much as one can entertain the thoughts of billionaire playboys finding the women of their dreams. It was well paced and had a very good underlying theme with the drug addiction of one of the twins. There were some very good tender moments as well are sexual ones. Reese goes from playboy to asking Audrey to marry him in zero to sixty but I think that was part of what was good about this one. Finding that one person who completes you is a fantastic experience and I think Clare was able to capture that for the reader. A good addition to the series!

The Wrong Billionaire's Bed is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag! 





About the Author:


Jill Myles is the pen name for USA Today Bestselling Author Jessica Clare. As Jill Myles, she writes a little bit of everything, from sexy, comedic urban fantasy to zombie fairy tales. As Jessica Clare, she writes erotic contemporary romance. She also has a third pen name (because why stop at two?). As Jessica Sims, she writes fun, sexy shifter paranormals. She lives in Texas with her husband, cats, and has a day job in finance. Jill spends her time writing, reading, writing, playing video games, and doing even more writing.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Review and Giveaway: A Finder's Fee

A Finder's Fee (Missing Pieces Mystery - Book 5) by Joyce and Jim Lavene

Publication Date: 10/01/2013
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley Prime Crime
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 304
ISBN-10: 0425252310
ISBN-13: 978-0425252314

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Joyce and Jim Lavene on the WEB: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Books in the series:

A Timely Vision (2010), A Touch of Gold (2011), A Spirited Gift (2011), A Haunting Dream (2012), A Finder's Fee (2013)

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.



Excerpt from A Finder's Fee, courtesy of the author's website.

Synopsis:

The mayor of Duck, North Carolina, Dae O’Donnell, is a woman with a gift for finding lost things. Sometimes it leads her to lost keys or earrings—and sometimes it leads her to murder…

DIRTY CAMPAIGNING
 
Two weeks before the mayoral election, Dae gets sidetracked from her political aspirations by a spirit in need of rescuing. An antique amber necklace allows Dae to connect with Maggie Madison, a witch who wants Dae to rebury her bones so she can rest in peace. But digging leads Dae to an even bigger mystery, a forty-year-old murder with ties to Randal “Mad Dog” Wilson, her mayoral opponent.
 
Dae wants to run a clean race, but town sentiment is mixed about whether she’s using her abilities to get the election to go her way. And when she learns that her own grandfather—the former sheriff of Dare County—might be mixed up in the long-buried tragedy, Dae will have to uncover the real killer and put Maggie to rest, before her political career ends up six feet under…


Thoughts:

Mayor Dae O'Donnell is once again up to her ears in trouble in the latest Missing Pieces mystery from Joyce and Jim Lavene. This writing duo has produced some great cozy mysteries over the years and A Finder's Fee does not disappoint. Readers will enjoy the psychic abilities of the lead character as well as a ghostly presence in this one. A witch from the 1700's is tapping Dae's ability to find missing things and this time it's not car keys or a missing piece of jewelry. It's her bones! Readers will love the campaign trail with Dae and the gang from Duck, North Carolina as the election looms and her opponent might be the murderer!

A Finder's Fee is a great addition to the Missing Pieces mystery series. Husband and wife writing duo, Joyce and Jim Lavene have found a good niche with these psychic related cozies. I like the fact that Dae's abilities are a bit uncommon even in the psychic community. She can find things. Your every day items as well as long lost heirlooms, but this gift usually leads her to murder. The Lavene's use humor and wit to bring A Finder's Fee to life. The townspeople from Duck are quite eccentric and some are even every bit as psychic as Dae herself. The dialogue is always comical and gives a lighthearted feel to the story. This is just one of the ingredients that make this a great series.

The addition of witch Maggie Madison to this installment in the series will provide a lot of fun moments for the reader. Maggie seems to take over Dae's personality at the oddest of moments and provides humorous, as well as, frightening moments. I liked the fact that through Maggie and the rescue of her bones, readers are able to learn more about the past of several of Duck's inhabitants, including Dae's opponent for the upcoming election, Mad Dog and Dae's grandfather. The back story in these novels is always interesting and informative. It gives a lot of credibility to the story and engages the readers interest.

Finding a skeleton in a race car, might seem a little odd to some readers, but it's typical of this quaint little North Carolina town. Duck is fun place to be and readers will find themselves wishing they were citizens in this very eclectic place. Townspeople like Kevin and Shayla, Dae's friends and partners in crime, have become like old friends to readers of the series and it's always fun to go back and visit them. But new additions to the series are always appearing. The Lavene's know how to keep the readers interested and turning those pages.

The mystery aspect of this one was well thought out and planned. Each clue was positioned to take the reader off on a different tangent. Keeping the killer elusive, but right in front the reader as well. I like the fact that Joyce and Jim Lavene tantalize the reader by keeping the murderer just out of site until the end. I had some trouble figuring this one out until the last couple of chapters. I finally settled on who I thought it was and ended up being wrong. LOL! It happens. This is a great addition to the series and readers will be left wanting more.

A Finder's Fee is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:

Joyce and Jim Lavene have written more than forty novels together, including the Missing Pieces mysteries, the Renaissance Faire mysteries, and the Peggy Lee Garden mysteries.


Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of A Finder's Fee by Joyce and Jim Lavene.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US Addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, November 13th.

1. Please leave a comment describing something you've lost that you really want to find.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Review and Giveaway: Final Catcall

Final Catcall (Magical Cats Mystery - Book 5) by Sofie Kelly

Publication Date: 10/01/2013
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Obsidian Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 336
ISBN-10: 0451414705
ISBN-13: 978-0451414700

(Received for an honest review from Obsidian Mystery)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Sofie Kelly on the WEB: Website, NewsGoodreads

Books in the series:

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat (2011), Sleight of Paw (2011), Copycat Killing (2012), Cat Trick (2013), Final Catcall (2013)

Coverart: Click the image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.



Excerpt from Final Catcall, courtesy of the author's website.

Synopsis:

Small-town librarian Kathleen Paulson gets plenty of entertainment from her extraordinary cats, Owen and Hercules. But when a theatre troupe stumbles into more tragedy than it bargained for, it’s up to Kathleen to play detective....
 
With her sort-of boyfriend Marcus calling it quits and her ex-boyfriend Andrew showing up out of the blue, Kathleen has more than enough drama to deal with—and that’s before a local theatre festival relocates to Mayville Heights. Now the town is buzzing with theatre folk, and many of them have their own private dramas with the director, Hugh Davis.
 
When Davis is found shot to death by the marina, he leaves behind evidence of blackmail and fraud, as well as an ensemble of suspects. Now Kathleen, with a little help from her feline friends Owen and Hercules, will have to catch the real killer before another victim takes a final curtain call.


Thoughts:

The Magical Cats Mystery series continues with the fifth book by Sofie Kelly, Final Catcall. Kelly's trademark wit and humor shine in this book, as well as her uncanny ability to write feline characters. Owen and Hercules are two cats with some special talents and they one of the reasons this series is so popular. Kelly continues to intrigue readers with the adventures of Kathleen Paulson, librarian and amateur sleuth. Readers get a chance to learn more of Kath's back story with a visit from her mother, an old boyfriends return and the possible break up with her main squeeze and local detective, Marcus Gordon. A great addition to a wonderful series that will enchant mystery readers and cat enthusiasts alike!

This is a series that I have really enjoyed. Sofie Kelly has a knack for writing about the relationship between pet and owner. In this case, she does a fantastic job of describing how Kathleen and her cats Owen and Hercules interact with each other. I like the fact that Kelly allows Kathleen to treat her cats like members of the family. She even talks to them, to help her sort out her ideas and clues about whatever mystery she happens to be involved in at the moment. They are almost like a sounding board that Kathleen bounces her ideas off. That is a nice touch and will certainly appeal to cat lovers, who understand that fine line between pet and friend.

Hercules and Owen are quite a duo. The series is basically centered around their special abilities. Hercules can walk through solid objects, like walls and Owen can disappear at the most inopportune moments. Though Kathleen is the main character, these two kitties definitely have a starring role. I always enjoy the way Kelly lets the cats be a part of the action but not necessarily the main focus. It gives readers the tie in they need to the series, but also allows the human characters to shine in their own rights.

In Final Catcall, there is a lot of action going on. A theatre troupe has experienced a fire and has to move their festival to Mayville. The directer ends up dead and Kathleen ends up in the middle of another one of Marcus' cases. In the last book, Cat Trick, Marcus and Kathleen basically broke up because he didn't feel she trusted him and now her ex-fiancee, Andrew has shown up to win her back. It sets up the book for not only a good mystery, but also a bit of a love triangle. 

There were plenty of suspects and even a cameo visit from Kathleen's mom, which helps readers to understand more about Kath's back story. I liked the fact that Kathleen tried to stay out of the mystery but couldn't quite pull it off. I think if she and Marcus are ever to stay together, they will have learn to understand each other better. Marcus must realize that she just doesn't have the ability to stay out of it. Which in the case of an amateur sleuth is a good thing. The mystery was well written. The suspects were believable and Kelly gives just enough red herrings to keep readers off track until the end.

The resolution of Kathleen's dilemina about Marcus and Andrew comes to a bit of an abrupt ending, but readers probably have seen it coming from about the middle of the book, so it shouldn't have been a shock. I liked the fact that Kathleen has to make this decision because I think it will drive the relationship she chooses forward and help to solidify it in future additions to the series. I liked the fact that Kelly does gloss over the fact that Kathleen and Andrew have a history together or the fact that she and Marcus have shared some hairy experiences of their own. The love triangle was believable and realistic. 

Kelly once again shows readers a good balance between mystery and relationships and what makes a good cozy work. I love this series and can't wait to see what Owen and Herc get into next, not to mention Kathleen and all the gang from Mayville.

Final Catcall is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:

Sofie Kelly is the pseudonym of young adult writer and mixed-media artist, Darlene Ryan. Sofie/Darlene lives on the east coast with her husband and daughter. In her spare time she practices Wu style tai chi and likes to prowl around thrift stores. And she admits to having a small crush on Matt Lauer.


Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Final Catcall by Sofie Kelly.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US Addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, November 13th.

1. Please leave a comment describing an ability you wish your cat or dog had.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review and Giveaway: What the Cat Saw

What the Cat Saw (Nela Farley - Book 1) by Carolyn Hart

Publication Date: 10/01/2013
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley Prime Crime
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 304
ISBN-10: 0425252280
ISBN-13: 978-0425252284

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Carolyn Hart on the WEB: WebsiteFacebook, Goodreads

Excerpt from What the Cat Saw, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.

Synopsis:

National bestselling author Carolyn Hart presents the story of a woman with a curious ability that drops her headfirst into a world of intrigue and murder…
 
Since her fiancĂ©’s death, Nela Farley has been plagued by a sixth sense: She understands the thoughts of cats. In desperate need of a distraction, Nela agrees to substitute for her sister, Chloe, at her job for a charitable foundation. Chloe has even arranged a place for her sister to stay. But when Nela encounters the previous tenant’s cat, she gets a flash of thought: “. . . dead and gone . . . She loved me . . . skateboard on the step . . .”
 
Nela wants to ignore what the cat saw, but the idea that the death of former tenant Marian Grant wasn’t an accident is something she can’t ignore. And when a detective becomes suspicious of Nela’s sister and a second murder occurs, Nela realizes she’ll have to make the most of her unwanted ability before she meets her own untimely end…


Thoughts:

Carolyn Hart begins a new paranormal cozy mystery series, with her book, What the Cat Saw. Hart's trademark style and character development draws readers into the story of a C.O.O (corporate operating officer) and a fill in employee who gets some information from an unlikely source... the woman's cat. Hart's brand of lighthearted mystery is full of surprises. With an interesting paranormal theme and a great new protagonist in Nela Farley, Hart's new series is bound to strike a cord with readers, from mystery fans to cat lovers!

Let me start by saying that Carolyn Hart has had an outstanding career as a mystery writer. From her Death on Demand series to Bailey Ruth, Hart has thrilled readers from start to finish. She has a way of writing characters that makes them companionable and allows them to turn into old friends that readers want to visit again and again. Her straight forward style and elegant simplicity, lend a sophistication to her books that is not often present in the cozy sub-genre. She is a legend in the mystery community and readers are quick to pick up any new book she releases. 

What the Cat Saw is Hart's newest series starter and I for one was really excited to see her starting something new. This book is departure from some of her other books in that it is a little more concentric. The protagonist comes full circle before figuring out the clues that lead to the murderer. Hart starts out with a young grieving woman who takes a chance opening as a fill in for her sister, at a charitable organization in hopes of finding a new start. She recently lost her job as an investigative reporter and her fiancee to an IED in Afghanistan. Nela Farley is a character after my own heart and Hart endears her the reader quickly with her sad memories and her love for her scatter brained sister. This character has a ton of potential with her unusual gift reading the minds of cats she comes in contact with.

One of the things I really enjoyed early on in this book is the heroines skepticism at her own abilities. This is paranormal ability that seems to have originated with the death of her fiancee, and she wonders if she isn't going crazy. I liked the fact that she didn't just accept it out of turn. That would have been too unbelievable. Also I enjoyed the way Hart wrote the thoughts that Nela was gleaning from the felines she came in contact with. The were short spurts of thought, not altogether coherent or fully realized. Exactly what I would expect from a cat. That was a nice touch.

Jugs is an interesting character in his own right, but I felt he was sorely underused. Readers will meet him in the beginning and learn what he has to offer Nela, but then he shifts into a background role. I would have liked to have seen Hart, really allow Jugs to become more than just a filler. There is a lot of potential for Jugs in this book, that I don't think was fully realized. But I also understand that he will not be a character that will be a focal point in the series, just in this particular book, so that may have been the reason of this.

There were other secondary characters who had a lot of potential as well. Steve, the local newspaper writer and even the curmudgeon of a police detective, but none of these other characters really got a lot of time in the story. Hart is known for her great characters and I felt like these were not as developed as the usual for Hart. Readers may feel a little cheated because of this. I would have enjoyed getting to know more about other people who worked for Halko beyond just a cursory scene here and there. 

There were several things about this book that didn't quite add up to the normal Carolyn Hart novel. That's not to say that it was a horrible book. It just wasn't what readers have come to expect from Hart. There is still plenty of potential for the series and subsequent books may counter some of the issues with this one. Another issue that stood out for me was the lack of setting and scene. Usually in a cozy mystery the setting is very important. In this novel the action centers around Halko and does not go into great details about the Craddock, Oklahoma town or it's residents beyond the police detective and the newspaperman. I wanted to know more about the area and the people, though I realize that this series is more character concentric than setting dependent.

The characters seem to rehash the facts of the case not once or twice but even three or four times in some cases. That made the book seem somewhat redundant and full of more filler than story line. There was so many ways this story could have gone that I believe would have been much more successful. The author is great storyteller and this book is good, but it's not great. I will definitely be looking to see if the sophomore effort in this series, can redeem it. I think it can and I believe it will. Hart is too good a writer not to rebound from this one. 

Some readers may be able to look beyond the cons and see the pros in this one. The great main character, the interesting paranormal twist, the realistic portrayal of the thoughts of a feline. There are good things here, just not enough to pull off the first in this new series book.

What the Cat Saw is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I am sadly giving this one 3 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:

An accomplished master of mystery, Carolyn Hart is the author of fifty novels of mystery and suspense. Her books have won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. One of the founders of Sisters in Crime, Hart lives in Oklahoma City, where she enjoys mysteries, walking in the park, and cats. She and her husband, Phil, serve as staff—cat owners will understand—to an orange tabby and brother and sister brown tabbies. 


Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of What the Cat Saw by Carolyn Hart.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US Addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, November 12th.

1. Please leave a comment. Are you a cat or a dog person and why?
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Murder and Marinara

Murder and Marinara (Italian Kitchen Mystery - Book 1) by Rosie Genova

Publication Date: 10/01/2013
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Obsidian Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 336
ISBN-10: 0451415140
ISBN-13: 978-0451415141

(Received for an honest review from Obsidian Mystery)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Rosie Genova on the WEB: Website, BlogFacebook, Goodreads

Excerpt from Murder and Marinara, courtesy of the author's website.

Synopsis:

Hit whodunit writer Victoria Rienzi is getting back to her roots by working at her family’s Italian restaurant. But now in between plating pasta and pouring vino, she’ll have to find the secret ingredient in a murder.... 
 
When Victoria takes a break from penning her popular mystery series and moves back to the Jersey shore, she imagines sun, sand, and scents of fresh basil and simmering marinara sauce at the family restaurant, the Casa Lido. But her nonna’s recipes aren’t the only things getting stirred up in this Italian kitchen.  
 
Their small town is up in arms over plans to film a new reality TV show, and when Victoria serves the show’s pushy producer his last meal, the Casa Lido staff finds itself embroiled in a murder investigation. Victoria wants to find the real killer, but there are as many suspects as tomatoes in her nonna’s garden. Now she’ll have to heat up her sleuthing skills quickly…before someone else gets a plateful of murder. 


Thoughts:

Rosie Genova brings readers the first book in her new Italian Kitchen Mystery series, Murder and Marinara. This book is full of big Italian family charm and the sites and smells of the Jersey Shore. Genova, a Jersey girl herself, gives readers insight into how a family restaurant works, as well as, an amateur sleuths perception of murder. Readers will love the eccentric characters and the Italian flavor of this mystery. Genova's knack for setting and place is exceptional. With everything from old boyfriends to reality TV, this book entertains from the first page to the last!

Who doesn't love a big Italian family with it all it's quirks and eccentricities? Rosie Genova's idea of the perfect Italian restaurant incorporates all of the stories and nuances that readers have come to know about Italian families. They are very passionate people, with big appetites and even bigger hearts. Casa Lido is an Italian family owned restaurant that is the epitome of home style cooking and love for food. Genova charms readers from the first glimpse of this restaurant and it's owners. She gives the reader a feeling of camaraderie and love as she describes Victoria's nonna and the rest of her family. All characters that the readers won't be able to get enough of. Genova's characterizations were spot on and gave a authentic feeling to her writing.

Vicki is what one might consider a black sheep in her big, bustling Italian family. She didn't stay and help run the restaurant. She moved off to New York to follow her dream of becoming an author. She made good on those dreams but now she wants to write a story based on her families struggle as immigrants in a new country. Victoria had her reasons for leaving and she has her reasons for returning. I liked the fact that though she may have run away from some things in her past, she was following her dreams. Genova writes her as a young woman, who knows what she's returning to, and is determined to make it work. I think readers will connect with Victoria's struggles and with her loving family. She is a great character, made all the better, by a great supporting cast.

Victoria's relationship with her sister in law Sophie was a highlight in this book. The two of them make a fantastic team. I also liked the fact that Genova did not make the relationship dependent on how things were going with Sophie and Danny, Victoria's brother. They're relationship was independent of the story, but still gave a lot of insight into how things got to be the way they were. Nonna is also a very formidable secondary character. The strict Italian grandmother whose expectations were high, but her praise even higher. I liked Danny, as well. He was the police presence in the novel. Victoria manages to get him in trouble here and there, but isn't that typical of siblings? I loved this big, happy family, as well as other supporting cast members like, Tim, the ex-boyfriend and the new carpenter. 

The mystery itself had an interesting theme. Many of us have had the fortune or misfortune of watching reality tv. There are even some reality television shows with a similar setting to our novel. So it was not a hard sell for Genova to have this kind of show moving into the Oceanside area. I liked the fact that the residents were protesting the filming and that the authors choice of victim for this mystery. Everything seemed very fitting and very believable. I liked how the author was able to make the reader care about how the area was going to be portrayed and what it would mean to the community. There were plenty of suspects and most of them have good motive and opportunity. I was stumped until about the last five chapters and then had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen. That was certainly not too early on and felt satisfying. Genova pulled off the theme very well and the mystery was well written and planned out.

But the star of the show in this book was easily the time and place. The setting was perfect. Genova's descriptions of the Jersey Shore, pre-super storm Sandy were enchanting and enjoyable to read. The sun and the sea and scrumptious Italian food were so well represented here, it is not beyond the scope to think that this book will entice readers to visit the area. Things are certainly different now, and it is to the author's credit that she chose to make this a Jersey Shore that readers remember as opposed to the stark reality of the aftermath of the storm. Readers will be able to feel the breeze off the ocean and smell the marinara bubbling on the stove. This is a descriptive gem! A great first book in a new series that fans will return to again and again.

Murder and Marinara is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:

A Jersey girl born and bred, Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for the Italian Kitchen Mysteries. An English teacher by day and novelist by night, Rosie also writes women’s fiction as Rosemary DiBattista. She lives in central New Jersey with her husband, her two younger sons, and an ill-behaved fox terrier.


Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Murder and Marinara by Rosie Genova.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US Addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, November 11th.

1. Please leave a comment describing a favorite Italian dish. Recipes appreciated!
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Review and Giveaway: Chili Con Carnage

Chili Con Carnage (Chili Cook-Off Mystery - Book 1) by Kylie Logan

Publication Date: 10/01/2013
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley Prime Crime 
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 304
ISBN-10: 0425262413
ISBN-13: 978-0425262412

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Kylie Logan on the WEB: WebsiteTwitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Excerpt from Chili Con Carnage, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.

Synopsis:

Bean there…done that…
 
Romance is supposed to be the spice of life. But Maxie Pierce is so done with bad relationships—well, almost. She just has to get rid of the latest loser, Roberto. Besides, she has more important things to worry about. Her daddy, Texas Jack Pierce, king of the chili cook-off circuit, has been missing for nearly six weeks now. In his place, she must team up with her irritating half sister, Sylvia, to promote the family business at the Taos Chili Showdown, to be judged by celebrity chef Carter Donnelly.
 
But when Maxie discovers Roberto’s body in the chef’s trailer—only hours after publicly breaking up with him while wearing a giant red chili pepper costume—she suddenly finds she’s the one in the spotlight as the police pepper her with questions. Now this Chili Chick needs to kick up the search to catch the real killer and get back to finding her father…


Thoughts:

Kylie Logan begins a new cozy mystery series with a chili cook-off spin. The first book in the Chili Cook-Off mystery series, Chili Con Carnage introduces readers to the carnival atmosphere of the cook-off circuit, with it's eccentric denizens and eclectic personalities. Logan does a wonderful job with characterization. Bringing readers characters who are easy to identify with, while remaining fresh and interesting. Readers will find this culinary mystery full of just as many hot and spicy moments as the beans in the famous Hot Cha Palace chili!

Kylie Logan is no stranger to the cozy sub-genre. She has three series' to her credit under this pen name and many other books, including the highly popular Pepper Martin series under the name, Casey Daniels. When it comes to mysteries, Logan certainly knows what she's doing. There are so many cozies today that focus on food in some way. That gives an author a real challenge in finding some form of the foodie culture to explore that will be new and refreshing. Logan has hit on an interesting concept with this series. 

Cook-offs in general bring in a host of quirky characters, whether it's chili, barbecue or any other type of food. I think Logan is tapping a very entertaining area of food, that is almost reminiscent of the carnival culture. Where cook-off participants travel around to different shows and try to beat each other with the best recipes. Logan introduces readers to a behind the scenes look at what goes into this 'cook-off' mentality and how they make it work. I loved the idea and thought Logan did a great job of pulling it off and making it fun and realistic.

Logan has a knack for characterization and that's really on display with this first in a series book. Logan has to not only introduce readers to the culture and the characters, but she also has to set up the series, create the back story and make these characters come alive for her readers. She does an impressive job with this book. Readers will be immediately drawn to the two half sisters who are forced to co-exist in on the chili cook-off circuit after their father disappears. I think Logan was going for an over-the-top cast of characters who are hot and sassy, and full of surprises.

Maxie Pierce is definitely a firecracker. Chili Con Carnage is told from Maxie's point of view and the reader gets a sense of her hot tempered and passionate attitude right from the first page. I liked this character a lot. She had sass and determination, but she also had a softer side. She has had some trouble in her love life and it once again gets her in trouble in this mystery. I liked her interactions with her over-bearing half sister and the way she looked at life in general. She may not have anyone's first pick for a good amateur sleuth, but she pulls it off with style. Logan does a fantastic job with her and readers will fall in love with her saucy voice and spit fire attitude.

The mystery aspect of the novel was well thought out and planned. Maxie is a sort of no nonsense character and her investigation proves that out. She asks a lot of questions and doesn't beat around the bush. I liked the fact that Logan goes a different direction with this one, but not having a strong police presence. Nick Falcone is a security guard, with a police background, but he isn't bogged down by rule and regulation and I think that helped him come across as a good back up for Maxie as well as a possible love interest. There were several red herring to throw the reader off and the initial suspects may not be who the reader would suspect. Overall a very well written mystery.

I'm looking forward to the next book in the series as much for the family drama as I am for the mystery. These two girls are all in when it comes to chili and love. I liked the idea about the disappearance of Texas Jack and where that theme might take the series. There is a lot going on in this book for readers to enjoy. A great first effort!

Chili Con Carnage is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:

So maybe you already know that I'm not just Kylie Logan, I'm also Casey Daniels and a few other writers, too. What's it like to have multiple personalities and the pen names to go with them? Well, I was once lucky enough to interview mystery great Elizabeth Peters for an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. She writes under more than one name, too, and she described the experience perfectly, “If you're only one person,” she said, “you're boring!” 

And I guess I'd add to that—if you only write one mystery series, you're boring, too! Or maybe you're just not getting visited as often by the Idea Fairy. The only way to keep that particular critter quiet is to follow where those ideas lead and to date, they've led me to write three different mystery series under the Kylie name. 

So who is Kylie? I'm a fulltime writer who has loved mysteries since I was a kid. My dad was a Cleveland Police detective, and he introduced me to Sherlock Holmes stories. He also gave me my first investigating experiences when on his days off, we'd pile into the car and hit the streets to look for stolen cars. When he retired from the force, Dad became the head of security for the Cleveland Public Library. 

Crooks and books! I guess I come by my love for mysteries honestly. 

I have a degree in English, experience as a journalist and writing teacher, and lots of ideas about interesting ways to kill people. This makes me an excellent guest as cocktail parties, but I've noticed that the hostess doesn't always trust me near the food. Could that have something to do with the book on poisons sticking out of my purse? 

I began my career writing historical romance and my book “Devil's Diamond” was nominated for a RITA award as historical of the year by Romance Writers of America. I've also written contemporary romance, young adult horror (as Zoe Daniels and Connie Laux), and one children's book, “Fright Knight,” in the RL Stine's Ghosts of Fear Street series. If you click on the “AKA” button at the top of the page, you'll see all my pen names. 

I enjoy weaving and knitting, exploring old cemeteries, and I am a beekeeper. I can't pass up an antique shop (there might be buttons in there!). I can't put down a classic book (even if I already know the story!). And I can't say no to a good bowl of chili. Lucky for me, my husband is the world's greatest chili maker. 

When I'm not writing, I'm usually with my family and our two dogs, Ernie, an adorable Airedale, and Oscar, a Jack Russell rescue who came for a short-term stay and ten years later, is still here. Those of you who have ever lived with/met/had dealings with a Russell will certainly understand how knowing him has increased my propensity for murder.



Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Chili Con Carnage by Kylie Logan.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US Addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, November 11th.

1. Please leave a comment describing your favorite chili recipe and why you love it.
2. Please fill out the FORM.