Meow If It’s Murder Review & Giveaway!

21911690How lucky am I to get a first peek into this brand new kitty-themed mystery series! I came home from another long day at work only to find an advance manuscript sitting on my doorstep. Ah the perks of book blogging! The book doesn’t drop until Dec. 2, but you can score an ARC (that’s book blogger talk for advance reader copy) by entering my giveaway contest.  Just name your favorite sub shop sandwich in the comment section below and the winner will be picked at random!

So what do sandwiches have to do with the book? Well as with many cozies, this Nick & Nora series revolves around a quaint shop in a charming little hamlet filled with colorful characters and small town charm. In this case, it’s a family-run sandwich shop in a sleepy little corner of Northern California. Our leading lady, Nora Charles, returns to her hometown to take over her mother’s sandwich shop after a long, exhausting stint on the Chicago Tribune crime beat. Her quiet life of sandwich artistry lasted about 10 minutes until she found herself smack dab in the middle of a cold case mystery involving the curious death of socialite Lola Granger.  Just goes to show, you can take the girl out of the crime beat, but you can’t take the crime beat out of the girl!

Don't let that grumpy face fool you. Gizzy is a fan of Nick & Nora!

Don’t let that grumpy face fool you. Gizzy is a fan of Nick & Nora!

As she probes into the Lola’s mysterious cruise ship drowning, she finds more questions than answers. Why would someone with an irrational fear of the ocean jump off a cruise ship in the middle of the night? And how is Lola’s missing sister connected to all this? Is the smoking-hot Paul Walker lookalike detective really trying to help? Or does he have ulterior motives for keeping tabs on Nora’s sleuthing?

The specialty sandwich shop recipes are an added bonus. My chef husband was kind enough to make the Michael Buble burger, which I highly recommend!

The specialty sandwich shop recipes are an added bonus. My chef husband was kind enough to make the Michael Buble burger, which I highly recommend!

Adding to the mystery is the appearance of a portly little tuxedo cat on Nora’s doorstep.  She tries to shoo him away, but he’s intent on being her cat. Of course she succumbs to his cuteness and allows him to rule the sandwich shop.  How could she not? Turns out, he isn’t your ordinary alley cat. In fact, he once belonged to a private investigator who was looking into Lola’s murder mystery. With his uncanny talent for sleuthing, Nick uses Scrabble tiles to literally spell out clues for Nora.  He even warns her when she’s about to put her life at risk. How’s that for a kitty sidekick?!

Everything comes together in the end, but yet I’m still plagued with questions about the cat. How did he know to find Nora when she was hot on the case? And what is with his resemblance to his former owner? Is this a case of reincarnation or soul transference? I guess I’ll have to read the next book to find out!

I highly recommend this one to all my fellow kitty cozy mystery lovers.  Heck, even if you don’t like cats (which is crazy by the way), you’ll enjoy this book. There are plenty of suspects to consider and even a hot little romance simmering between Nora and the hot detective. I especially enjoyed Nora’s psychic best friend, Chantel, who was constantly torturing Nick with her fussy blinged-out kitty collars. I sure would love for her to make one for my Gizzy!

What’s your favorite sandwich? Post a comment and tell me all about it. Giveaway closes on Friday, Nov. 28.

 

“Dance on His Grave” Review & Audiobook Giveaway!

14538706Well butter my buns and call me a biscuit! Oh how I love Southern mysteries set deep in the heart of the hauntingly beautiful East Texas-Louisiana borderlands.  Sylvia Dickey Smith has mastered the art of evoking a sense of dread in her lyrical atmospheric descriptions of the mysterious bayou country.  Moody atmosphere, colorful characters, good food and one heck of a strong-willed protagonist are all key ingredients for a quality Southern fiction novel. This author delivers all of these things in spades in her Sidra Smart mysteries. That’s why I put Sidra Smart on the top of my list of favorite Southern detectives—right next to David Robichauex, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. If you haven’t heard of those other guys, I advise you to Google James Lee Burke and Joe Lansdale immediately!

In this first installment of the Sidra Smart Mystery Series, Sid has emancipated herself from a loveless, sheltered marriage. No longer an obedient preacher’s wife, she’s thrust into a whole new world of independence and opportunity.

She reaches a crossroads when she inherits her dead brother’s PI business. With zero knowledge of how to run a business—let alone solve mysteries—she’s ready to sell it off to the lowest bidder. Yet when her controlling ex-husband tries to push her into doing just that, she decides to slap on her gumshoes out of sheer defiance! And really, that’s what I love about Sidra Smart. She’s bold, brave and ready to take on new adventures, despite the legions of naysayers who will stop at nothing to watch her fail.

Before she’s ready to pick up a  copy of “How to Run a PI Business for Dummies,”  her first client walks in with a cold case that would stump even Sherlock Holmes. Despite her best interest, Sidra agrees to look into the 30-year-old mystery revolving around two innocent girls caught up in an unimaginable world of horrors.  The horror show intensifies as she looks deeper into the case and discovers a tangled web of town secrets, torture and arson. Trust me, once you get to know the villain, you’ll understand the meaning of the book’s title, “Dance on His Grave.”

The plot thickens when Sid finds a connection between the bizarre cold case and her brother’s mysterious car accident. And just with any good thriller, the danger heats up as our heroine gets closer to the truth. Who is sneaking into her home and leaving ominous threats? Is it her ex-husband’s God-fearing disciples, or could it be a demented child-abusing killer? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

With some help from her newfound friend and fellow PI, George Leger, she carries on with the case—even when all hope seems to be lost.  She also gets a little help from her meddlesome Aunt Annie, who is always there to help Sid pick up the pieces when the chips are down. I’m especially fond of the Cajun-speaking George, who’s interesting enough to have his own spinoff story.

This is not your typical amateur sleuth mystery, mainly because there are some really weighty issues at the core of the story. Some of the descriptions of are rather dark and disturbing, so this book is not for the squeamish. Filled with punchy dialogue, cliffhanger chapter endings and unspeakable crimes, this book is somewhat of a mash-up of Karin Slaughter meets Gillian Flynn with a Cajun twist. Hard-boiled mystery fans are sure to enjoy this puzzling whodunit.

Enter to Win a Free Audiobook!

imagesU9JY9PEDI should also mention that the author gave me this book via Audible.  The narrator did a fantastic job unfolding the story in a somber tone. Unlike other narrators who drive me bonkers with their rapid-speed chipmunk-on-crack storytelling, she did a stellar job keeping the pace and capturing Sid’s voice.  I highly recommend listening to this on audio. In fact, the author has offered to give away a free audiobook. All you have to do is post a comment answering the following question and the winner will be picked at random. Don’t fret if you’re not an Audible member.  You can still receive the audiobook without an account.

Who is your favorite thriller author?

Historical Mystery Series Giveaway!

Love cozy mysteries set in Victorian England? Well look no further than Paula Paul’s new Dr. Alexandra Gladstone Series! Being the cozy mystery fanatic that I am, I happily jumped on the blog tour, hosted Amanda over at Chick Lit = The New Black. Check out these snippits about the first three books in the series!

Symptoms of Death (Book 1)

You can’t cure murder…

When the old country doctor of Newton-Upon-Sea passed away, he left his only daughter, Alexandra, with the secrets of his trade. Now, the village depends on its lady-doctor Gladstone for its births, deaths, and all the inconveniences in between.

Dr. Alexandra Gladstone is visiting the Lord of Dunsford, when he’s found murdered in his bed. Joined by Nancy, her maid, the London barrister, Nicholas Forsythe, and her faithful dog, Zack, she soon discovers that other nobles in Lord Dunsford’s circle of acquaintances have very good reasons to see him dead. The symptoms of death begin to multiply as they uncover a dangerous plot of revenge, hatred, and blackmail. And unfortunately for Alexandra, this rage could get her killed…

An Improper Death (Book 2)

Always Dress Well for Murder…

The small town of Newton-Upon-Sea is stunned by the death of a retired admiral of her Majesty’s Navy, and even more shocked at the state in which he is found. Everyone is ready to assume that he took a drunken fall from a cliff, except for Dr. Alexandra Gladstone. Along with Nancy, her maid, the London barrister, Nicholas Forsythe, and her faithful dog, Zack, she will battle local authorities, morticians, and the gossip of the town in order to learn the truth. And when she does, she just might find that the truth is worse than she could ever have imagined…

 

Half a Mind to Murder (Book 3)

Always Dress Well For Murder…

Murder is in the air in the small town of Newton-Upon-Sea. A mysterious illness is claiming the lives of men of a certain age, and where the illness fails, a sharp knife does not. Dr. Alexandra Gladstone is at a loss to determine what is causing the sickness, and the only survivor of the illness is soon found with his heart surgically removed. The panic-stricken townsfolk do not know who to trust, and Constable Snow is at a loss to find the killer, or protect innocents from the frightened, unruly mob.

Dr. Gladstone is sent to London by Snow to discover some answers that might help them catch the madman who is committing the murders. When she realizes the truth, she knows that she may already be too late to save those that she loves the most…

About the Author: Paula Paul has published 25 novels for both children and adults. Her popular historical mystery series featuring Dr. Alexandra Gladstone is being re-released in both print and electronic format by Cool Well Press. New books in the series will be forthcoming, beginning with The Queen’s Crime, scheduled for release in January 2013.

Paula has written contemporary mysteries as well as historical and contemporary romance novels and literary novels. Her favorites are her historical and literary novels. She has won awards from Women Writing the West, New Mexico Book Association, the Zia Award, National Press Women Award for Fiction, Texas Institute of Letters Award, and a Texas Bluebonnet Award.

Growing up in Texas on a cotton farm and ranch that was 30 miles from the nearest town, she had plenty of time to develop a very severe reading addiction that eventually translated into crafting her own stories and books.

A former journalist, she is the recipient of several state and national awards for reporting and feature writing. She lives in Albuquerque, NM, with her husband. She has two grown children and six grandchildren who keep her life full and interesting. She also has an adorable if annoying Schnoodle (Poodle and Schnauzer mix) who makes certain she takes a break from writing and gets her three-mile walk everyday.

Enter the Giveaway!

Paula is giving away the first three books in the series! U.S. residents can pick from eBook or paperback copies but international winners will only receive eBooks.

To enter, post your answer to this question in a comment below: Who is your favorite amateur sleuth?  The winner’s name will be drawn at random.  Good Luck!

Giveaway, Review and Q&A: Death on Heels by Ellen Byerrum

In her eighth novel featuring the fearless Washington D.C. fashion columnist, Lacey Smithsonian, Ellen Byerrum successfully pulls off another rollicking mystery filled with an eclectic mix of colorful characters and more red herrings than you can shake a stick at!

As the novel opens, Lacey reluctantly returns to her dreary hometown of Sagebrush, Colorado to investigate the murders of three young women – all left for dead on the side of the road without their blinged-out cowgirl boots.

All fingers point to her ex-boyfriend, Cole Tucker, a sexy-as-hell cowboy rancher who still carries a torch for his old girlfriend. Despite the incriminating evidence, which seemed to be carefully placed on his land, she’s certain of her old beau’s innocence. Of course, her current boyfriend and private investigator, Vic Donovan, isn’t all too keen on her rushing to the aid of a suspected killer…who might also be her one true love.

Just as she feared, her heart  melts the second she sees the rugged cowboy in his brown jailbird jumpsuit. And things go from bad to worse when he breaks free of his cuffs, slings her over his shoulder and flees the courthouse in a blaze of glory.

On the run from the law, Cole whisks Lacey away into the rugged plains of Northern Colorado. Traveling deep into God’s country in “borrowed” cars and on horseback, the two ex-lovers shack up in a creepy abandoned cabin and stumble upon an essential fashion clue: a black cowboy bootheel wrapped in silver filigree.

As Lacey pieces together the clues, she encounters a slew of shady characters with ample motives for railroading her old flame. They’re all chomping at the bit for a piece of his land, aptly named  “The Tuckered Out Ranch,” which sits atop a goldmine of mineral resources.

With Vic and a posse of trigger-happy local yokels in hot pursuit, Lacey fears for Cole’s safety and struggles with her unresolved feelings. Could the man she left behind be the one? I’ve always been on team Vic, but this cowboy is H-O-T (think young Scott Glenn in Urban Cowboy), and the romantic tension intensifies every time they lock eyes. Boy is she in for a bumpy ride – and I’m not just talking about riding horseback along the badlands of rural Colorado.

If you’re new to the Crimes of Fashion mystery series, you’re in for a treat! The author  imbues her writing with an addictive sense of wit, and Lacey’s adventures are laugh-out-loud funny. Not only does Ellen deliver a wonderfully quirky yet completely believable cast of characters including Lacey’s spunky little sister, Cherise, who threatens to steal the whole show, but the book’s exceptionally entertaining plot strikes the perfect balance between high-stakes danger and smoldering romance. Oh and I should also mention the delightful “fashion bites” are an added bonus for fashionably-challenged wannabe cowgirls like myself! Here are a couple of my faves:

“So ladies, if the boot fits, wear it. Wear your boots with pants, shorts, skirts, and dresses. Wear them with a swagger and a glint in your eyes. Wear them with a purpose. Wear them with an attitude. Wear them walking toward your destiny. But never wear them with indifference.”

“When you don a Western look, you’re wearing an American classic, a little piece of the frontier, of the Wild West, and the wild imagination as well. Not a Halloween costume.

Now without any further ado, I’m proud to present a Q&A with the fabulous Ellen Byerrum!

Welcome Ellen! Why does Lacey love wearing vintage fashions? And what does this unique style say about her character?

Vintage clothing is attractive to Lacey for several reasons. Vintage gives her the opportunity to wear a suit or a dress that is unusual, if not one of a kind. The clothes from the late 1930s and 1940s, which Lacey prefers, were built for a woman’s figure, not a boyish one. The clothing that survives from 60 and 70 years ago tends to be the better clothes, the pieces that people saved, treasured and kept in good condition. Their “Sunday best,” if you will. The styles were flattering, and because of government regulations that restricted fabric, designers were a lot more creative in the details.  And finally, Lacey likes to think that some of the spirit of the original owner remains in those dresses and suits and coats, the spirit of strong women who kept the country running through World War II.

Will Lacey infuse some country flare into her vintage ensembles while she’s hunting down clues in her hometown of Sagebrush, Colorado?

More likely she takes her big city flair to the country and tries to blend her styles. But you’ll have to see for yourself.

How has Lacey evolved since the first installment of the Crimes of Fashions mystery series?

In the first book, Killer Hair, Lacey was reluctant to get involved in murder investigations, but as time goes by—eight books, but less than a year in book time—she’s more sure of herself and finding creative ways to use her fashion beat to write what she wants to write. Since the first book, Lacey has fallen in love, studied private investigation, and come to appreciate her mother and sister in ways she hadn’t before.

I have to admit, I watched the Lifetime movies before reading your novels. I was quite surprised by how different the books were from the movies. In your opinion, how did they get it right – and where did they miss the mark?

My first reaction when I saw the movies was that I could tell every line that wasn’t mine! Nevertheless, it was a great thrill to have movies based on my books, though not quite a complete retelling. I thought that some of the characters were great. Maggie Lawson made a charming Lacey, Victor Webster was a terrific Vic Donovan, and together they created great chemistry. Stella was nothing like the character in the book, but the actress was endearing, and I loved Brooke as well. One of the best surprises was the actress playing Felicity Pickles. Though she was a blonde and not a brunette like the character in the books, she was wonderful in a very small role. And the killer was really good. In addition, I have to say it was a kick doing a walk-on in the movie in front of the White House! People who know me can spot my big moment on camera.

KILLER HAIR was pretty faithful to the book and I thought the climax was well done, well directed, and suspenseful. HOSTILE MAKEOVER followed the set up of the book and then. . . deviated. All I can say is that there is a point to HM about how beautiful people can harbor monsters inside, but the film didn’t get that point. At all. Let’s just say I was surprised at the big finish in the second movie.

As far as what they missed?  I heard from a lot of readers who were outraged that Aunt Mimi’s trunk was not in the movies. I agree, it was a puzzling omission. After all, Lacey often finds her inspirations in the trunk and runs to it whenever she’s stressed or baffled. She has found many of her outfits in the trunk, with its bottomless treasure trove of patterns and materials. About the vintage clothing in the film: While Maggie Lawson’s costumes were some sort of vintage, including dresses looked like they dated from the 1970s and 1980s, there were only a couple of pieces from Lacey’s favorite period, the 1940s. The Lifetime movies were filmed in Canada with many Canadian actors, which is probably why Stella did not have a New Jersey accent. Another key character in HOSTILE MAKEOVER was from West Virginia, but there was no southern accent. It would have been nice to hear the various accents, which provide back story in a character.

(NOTE: The Lifetime Movie Network films were first aired in summer 2009. They’re available from iTunes. There are links on my Web site on the Buy My Books page.)

Lacey’s two best friends, Stella and Brooke, are by far my most favorite chick lit gal pals. They’re smart, they’re sassy, and they always have Lacey’s back.  Why is it important to support the leading lady with a strong cast of friends?

I’m so glad you like them. I enjoy Brooke and Stella too, especially because they both provide counterpoints to Lacey, in their personalities and their style. They have a lot of heart and loyalty. In practical terms, they have strong stories, love interests, and back stories, which gives me a lot more to play with in terms of plot and subplot.

What’s the most important piece of advice you could give aspiring authors?

1). Keep writing! Stop listening to all the negative voices you might hear, including your own, that can stop you in your tracks. Ignore all questions like, What makes you think you could be a writer? 2) Finish your project! Whether it’s a short story or a book, you have to move beyond polishing those first three pages or chapters. You’ll never be published if you don’t finish.  3) Listen to constructive criticism. You don’t have to do everything your critics say, but many times others have the distance to see how you could make your work better. 4) Rewrite. First drafts are never perfect, no matter how brilliant they might seem to us.

Do you plan out your novels with outlines and detailed synopses, or do you take a more freestyle approach to writing?

Outlines are required by my publisher, so I have to turn one in as part of the contract. A synopsis can be useful in figuring out where the story goes, but for me there is a danger that it can drain the energy from my writing, because writing the synopsis can make me feel like I’ve already been there and done that. I always have an idea of where I’m going, but it’s the surprises that occur while writing, whether it is a turn of phrase or a new character that pops up, that keeps me going.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on the ninth book in the series, titled VEILED REVENGE. It should be out in February 2013. That is, if everything goes according to plan. And I’m working on a psychological thriller, THE DOLLHOUSE IN THE CRAWL SPACE, which I really hope to finish this year. So wish me good luck! And thank you so much for inviting me here today.

About the author:

Ellen Byerrum writes the popular Crime of Fashion mysteries, set in bustling Washington, D.C., The City That Fashion Forgot. Featuring style sleuth Lacey Smithsonian, who solves crimes with fashion clues, the eighth book, Death on Heels, takes Lacey out of her comfort zone and into the Wild West where she confronts her past and an old boyfriend who is accused of murder.While researching fashion, Byerrum has collected her own assortment of 1940s vintage dresses and suits, and the occasional accessory, but laments her lack of closet space. She has been a D.C. news reporter in Washington, a playwright, and holds a Virginia P.I. registration. Although she currently resides in Denver, fashion reporter Lacey Smithsonian will continue to be based in Washington, D.C.

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GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Death on Heels. To enter, post a comment under this review/Q&A and answer this question:  Which of your fashion staples (footwear, accessories and jewelry included) gives you confidence? The winner’s name will be selected at random.

 The deadline to enter is Friday, March 30. U.S. addresses only.