Review: BLACKBERRY BURIAL by Sharon Farrow

One of my most recent cozy mystery reads was Blackberry Burial, the second installment in the Berry Basket Mystery series by Sharon Farrow,  which was released earlier this month.

Note:  This book can be read as a standalone (I had not read the first book in the series).

Description

Blackberryburial

Between a booming art scene and elaborate Independence Day festivities, July in lakeshore Oriole Point, Michigan, is always a blast. Especially when an explosive murder case crashes the fun . . .

As owner of The Berry Basket, Marlee Jacob has learned a thing or two about surviving the summer tourist season in Oriole Point. So she gladly agrees to help run the annual road rally in honor of the local Blackberry Art School’s centenary celebration. While alumni arrive from around the country, Marlee hopes the expansive Sanderling farm will make an appropriate starting point for the race—despite rumors that the land is cursed . . .

But when Marlee surveys the property, she stumbles upon a long-dead body hidden in the bramble. It’s a horrifying mystery to everyone except her baker, who’s convinced the skeletal remains belong to a former student who had gone missing twenty years earlier. As the Fourth of July activities heat up, Marlee must rush to catch an elusive murderer—before the next ‘blackberry victim’ is ripe for the picking!

My Review

Marlee cares about the people who work for her; she shows a great deal of compassion toward Theo, her baker, who faces challenges in interaction with others in social situations.  His limitations make him susceptible to ridicule and suspicion.  I appreciated the way the author presented Theo’s vulnerabilities and how Marlee stood by him, determined to help the police solve the case.  For the most part, the plot moved along at a good pace, with a few red herrings, and a resolution that pulled things together nicely. 

Marlee loves berries and she clearly knows everything about them. For this non-berry crazy reader, I think some of the descriptions went into a bit more detail than necessary. I was more intrigued by the mystery. I especially enjoyed the antics of Marlee’s remarkable parrot, who was quick to pick up new vocabulary and spout phrases and songs at opportune (and inopportune) moments.

Lovers of cozy mysteries, and culinary cozies in particular, are likely to enjoy this light read.

FTC disclosure: I received an advanced review copy of this book from the publisher.  This has not affected the content of my review.

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Guest Post & Spotlight: DRESSED TO KILL by Vicki Vass

DRESSED-TOI-KILL-large-banner640

As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, the spotlight today shines on Dressed to Kill, An Antique Hunters Mystery by Vicki Vass.  As part of the release celebration, the author is here to tell us a bit about her love of reading.


Guest Post – Vicki Vass

VickiVass2-206x300-206x300Thanks for letting me stop by. I always appreciate spending time with readers. I am often asked what I read and I have to admit that I have found myself in a reading frenzy lately. At the beginning of 2017, I set a goal in Goodreads to read 52 books
this year and finished this week. I am very excited by this accomplishment. This was done while working full time, writing the fifth book in the Antique Hunters mystery series and taking care of four pets – two Australian shepherd puppies and two cats.

When looking over the list of books I read throughout the year,  see it is quite varied. It truly transcends genres. I’ve read everything from biographies to mysteries to romance. It includes books by some of my favorite authors like Sophie Kinsella and John Grisham. And, books by new to me authors like Shari Lapena and Ruth Ware. It include biographies of the grandchildren of Commodore Vanderbilt and Alexander Hamilton. And then there is the re-imagining of my favorite book, Pride and Prejudice. I read several prize winners.

There is only one book I picked up and was not able to finish. I tried to read a fictionalized account of Thomas Cromwell and after slogging through 100 pages, I had to give it up. I may try it again or perhaps watch the series based on it. Reading for me is relaxation. I love to kick back with a book and while away the hours. And now that I am writing my own books I often rely on books for research. For Dressed to Kill, the fifth book in the Antique Hunters Mystery series, I read several books about Mary Todd Lincoln. The book involves a dress sewn by Elizabeth Keckley, Mary Todd’s dressmaker during the White House years.

Even though I’ve accomplished my reading goal for the year, I am still reading. There is nothing more pleasant on a cold winter’s night than to sit by the fire reading a book. I have several books on my shelf that I have put to the side so I can complete my goal. These include a history of the Romanovs and an accounting of the Attica prison riot in the 1970s. These heavyweight tomes had to take a backseat so I could accomplish my goal.

I still have stacks lining my closet walls and expect to continue to add to my reading collection. Books offer glimpses into a life of what if’s, what could be and what may happen. They really add to the fabric of our lives. I try to do that in my writing, taking readers on a journey of what if’s and what could happen. I also try to balance that with what is believable in the real world. Particularly with my two main characters, Anne Hillstrom and CC Muller. They traverse their antique hunting world, encountering situations and settings that can only be imagined.

What about you? Do you set reading goals? If so, what are you reading? What are your favorite types of books? I’d love to hear from you and I’m always looking to add to my reading list.


About Dressed to Kill

Dressed to killNew

In 1865, Elizabeth Keckley, Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker, conspired to change the course of the Civil War. Crossing lines between North and South, the band of conspirators wove a plan that remained undiscovered for more than 150 years until Antique Hunter Anne Hillstrom finds one of Keckley’s gowns. She and fellow Antique Hunter CC Muller unravel the mystery that has left a trail of dead bodies, leading to the doorstep of their antique store, Great-Aunt Sybil’s Attic.

Dressed to Kill is the fifth book in the Antique Hunters Mystery Series. Rooted in history, the series reimagines real-life events blurring the line between fact and fiction.

Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter for a chance to win a complete set of the Antique Hunters Mysteries.

About the Author

With a passion for shopping and antiques, Vicki Vass turned in her reporter’s notebook to chronicle the adventures of Anne and CC, two antique hunters who use their skills to solve a murder case.

Vicki has written more than 1,400 stories for the Chicago Tribune as well as other commercial publications including Home & Away, the Lutheran and Woman’s World. Her science fiction novel, The Lexicon, draws on her experience in Sudan while writing about the ongoing civil war for World Relief.

She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, writer and musician Brian Tedeschi, son Tony, Australian shepherd Bandit, kittens Terra and Pixel, seven koi and Gary the turtle.

Author Links – Website – Blog – Facebook 

Purchase Link – Amazon

Review: BONES TO PICK by Linda Lovely

As part of a blog tour organized by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours, I had the pleasure of reading a pre-release copy of  Bones to Pick, by Linda Lovely. This humorous cozy mystery is the first in the author’s new Brie Hooker series, set in South Carolina.

Synopsis

BonestopickLiving on a farm with four hundred goats and a cantankerous carnivore isn’t among vegan chef Brie Hooker’s list of lifetime ambitions. But she can’t walk away from her Aunt Eva, who needs help operating her dairy.
Once she calls her aunt’s goat farm home, grisly discoveries offer ample inducements for Brie to employ her entire vocabulary of cheese-and-meat curses. The troubles begin when the farm’s pot-bellied pig unearths the skull of Eva’s husband, who disappeared years back. The sheriff, kin to the deceased, sets out to pin the murder on Eva. He doesn’t reckon on Brie’s resolve to prove her aunt’s innocence. Death threats, ruinous pedicures, psychic shenanigans, and biker bar fisticuffs won’t stop Brie from unmasking the killer, even when romantic befuddlement throws her a curve.

My Review

From its quaint small town setting to Brie’s creative expletives and punny names (Udderly Kidding), this is very much a traditional cozy mystery.  Brie is resourceful and spunky, and she has her mind set on rooting out the truth and proving her aunt’s innocence.  As she becomes more acquainted with the townsfolk, age old family feuds and questionable business dealings come to her attention.  With a murder to  solve and two great guys competing for her attention, Brie has more than enough on her vegan plate.  A diverse cast of characters, sometimes comical situations, and an intriguing plot made this a delightful read.  I look forward to following Brie’s adventures in future books in this series.

FTC Disclosure:   I received a complimentary ARC of this book as part of this blog tour. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

Bones to Pick is available on Amazon.

About the Author

LindaLovely.pngOver the past five years, hundreds of mystery/thriller writers have met Linda Lovely at check-in for the annual Writers’ Police Academy, which she helps organize. Lovely finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and ad copy. She writes a blend of mystery and humor, chuckling as she plots to “disappear” the types of characters who most annoy her. Quite satisfying plus there’s no need to pester relatives for bail. Her newest series offers good-natured salutes to both her vegan family doctor and her cheese-addicted kin. She served as president of her local Sisters in Crime chapter for five years and belongs to International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America.

Catch Up With Linda Lovely On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

Read an excerpt from Bones to Pick by Linda Lovely:

ONE

Hello, I’m Brie, and I’m a vegan.

It sounds like I’m introducing myself at a Vegetarians Anonymous meeting. But, trust me, there aren’t enough vegetarians in Ardon County, South Carolina, to make a circle much less hold a meeting.

Give yourself ten points if you already know vegans are even pickier than vegetarians. We forgo meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. But we’re big on cashews, walnuts, and almonds. All nuts are good nuts. Appropriate with my family.

Family. That’s why I put my career as a vegan chef on hold to live and work in Ardon, a strong contender for the South’s carnivore-and- grease capital. My current job? I help tend four hundred goats, make verboten cheese, and gather eggs I’ll never poach. Most mornings when Aunt Eva rousts me before the roosters, I roll my eyes and mutter.

Still, I can’t complain. I had a choice. Sort of. Blame it on the pig—Tammy the Pig—for sticking her snout in our family business.

I’d consorted with vegans and vegetarians for too long. I seriously underestimated how much cholesterol meat eaters could snarf down at a good old-fashioned wake. Actually, I wasn’t sure this wake was “old fashioned,” but it was exactly how Aunt Lilly would have planned her own send-off—if she’d had the chance. Ten days ago, the feisty sixty- two-year-old had a toddler’s curiosity and a twenty-year-old’s appetite for adventure. Her death was a total shock.

I glanced at Aunt Lilly’s epitaph hanging behind the picnic buffet. She’d penned it years back. Her twin, Aunt Eva, found it in Lilly’s desk and reprinted it in eighty-point type.

“There once was a farmer named Lilly

Who never liked anything frilly,

She tended her goats,

Sowed a few wild oats,

And said grieving her death would be silly.”

In a nod to Lilly’s spirit, Aunt Eva planned today’s wake complete with fiddling, hooch, goo-gogs of goat cheese, and the whole panoply of Southern fixins—mounds of country ham, fried chicken, barbecue, and mac-and-cheese awash in butter. Every veggie dish came dressed with bacon crumbles, drippings, or cream of mushroom soup.

Not a morsel fit for a vegan. Eva’s revenge. I’d made the mistake of saying I didn’t want to lose her, too, and hinted she’d live longer if she cut back on cholesterol. Not my smartest move. The name of her farm? Udderly Kidding Dairy. Cheese and eggs had been Eva’s meal ticket for decades.

My innocent observation launched a war. Whenever I opened the refrigerator, I’d find a new message. This morning a Post-it on my dish of blueberries advised: The choline in eggs may enhance brain development and memory—as a vegan you probably forgot.

Smoke from the barbeque pit permeated the air as I replenished another platter of shredded pork on the buffet. My mouth watered and I teetered on the verge of drooling. While I was a dedicated vegan, my olfactory senses were still programmed “Genus Carnivorous.” My stomach growled—loudly. Time to thwart its betrayal with the veggies and hummus dip I’d stashed in self-defense.

I’d just stuck a juicy carrot in my mouth when a large hand squeezed my shoulder.

“Brie, honey, you’ve been working nonstop,” Dad said. “Take a break. Mom’s on her way. We can play caterers. The food’s prepared. No risks associated with our cooking.”

I choked on my carrot and sputtered. “Good thing. Do you even remember the last time Mom turned on an oven?”

Dad smiled. “Can’t recall. Maybe when you were a baby? But, hey, we’re wizards at takeout and microwaves.”

His smile faltered. I caught him staring at Aunt Lilly’s epitaph. “Still can’t believe Lilly’s gone.” He attempted a smile. “Knowing her sense of humor, we’re lucky she didn’t open that epitaph with ‘There once was a lass from Nantucket.’”

I’d never seen Dad so sad. Lilly’s unexpected death stunned him to his core. He adored his older sisters.

Mom appeared at his side and wrapped an arm around his waist. She loved her sisters-in-law, too, though she complained my childless aunts spoiled me beyond repair.

Of course, Lilly’s passing hit Eva the hardest. A fresh boatload of tears threatened as I thought about the aunt left behind. I figured my tear reservoir had dried up after days of crying. Wrong. The tragedy—a texting teenager smashing head-on into Lilly’s car—provoked a week- long family weep-a-thon. It ended when Eva ordered us to cease and desist.

“This isn’t what Lilly would want,” she declared. “We’re gonna throw a wake. One big, honking party.”

Which explained the fifty-plus crowd of friends and neighbors milling about the farm, tapping their feet to fiddlin’, and consuming enough calories to sustain the populace of a small principality for a week.

I hugged Dad. “Thanks. I could use a break. I’ll find Eva. See how she’s doing.”

I spotted her near a flower garden filled with cheery jonquils. It looked like a spring painting. Unfortunately, the cold March wind that billowed Eva’s scarlet poncho argued the blooms were false advertising. The weatherman predicted the thermometer would struggle to reach the mid-forties today.

My aunt’s build was what I’d call sturdy, yet Eva seemed to sway in the gusty breeze as she chatted with Billy Jackson, the good ol’ boy farrier who shod her mule. Though my parents pretended otherwise, we all knew Billy slept under Eva’s crazy quilt at least two nights a week.

I nodded at the couple. Well, actually, the foursome. Brenda, the farm’s spoiled pet goat, and Kai, Udderly’s lead Border collie, were competing with Billy for my aunt’s attention.

“Mom and Dad are watching the buffet,” I said. “Thought I’d see if you need me to do anything. Are you expecting more folks?”

“No.” Eva reached down and tickled the tiny black goat’s shaggy head. “Imagine everyone who’s coming is here by now. They’ll start clearing out soon. Chow down and run. Can’t blame ’em. Especially the idiot women who thought they ought to wear dresses. That biting wind’s gotta be whistling up their drawers.”

Billy grinned as he looked Eva up and down. Her choice of wake attire—poncho, black pants, and work boots—surprised no one, and would have delighted Lilly.

“Do you even own a dress?” Billy laughed. “You’re one to talk.” Eva gave his baggy plaid suit and clip-on bowtie the stink eye. “I suppose you claim that gristle on your chin is needed to steady your fiddle.”

He kissed Eva’s cheek. “Yep, that’s it. Time to rejoin my fellow fiddlers, but first I have a hankering to take a turn at the Magic Moonshine tent.”

“You do that. Maybe the ’shine will improve your playing. It’ll definitely make you sound better to your listening audience. After enough of that corn liquor even my singing could win applause.”

A dark-haired stranger usurped Billy’s place, bending low to plant a kiss on the white curls that sprang from my aunt’s head like wood shavings. Wow. They stacked handsome tall when they built him. Had to be at least six-four.

Even minus an introduction, I figured this tall glass of sweet tea had to be Paint, the legendary owner of Magic Moonshine. Sunlight glinted off hair the blue-black of expensive velvet. Deep dimples. Rakish smile.

I’d spent days sobbing, and my libido apparently was saying “enough”—time to rejoin the living. If this bad boy were any more alive, he’d be required to wear a “Danger High Voltage” sign. Of course, Aunt Lilly wouldn’t mind. She’d probably rent us a room.

I ventured a glance and found him smiling at me. My boots were suddenly fascinating. Never stare at shiny objects with the potential to hypnotize. I refused to fall under another playboy’s spell.

“How’s my best gal?” he asked, hugging Eva. “Best for this minute, right?” my aunt challenged. “I bet my niece will be your best gal before I finish the introductions.” Eva put a hand on my shoulder. “Paint, this young whippersnapper is Brie Hooker, my favorite niece. ’Course, she’s my only niece. Brie, it’s with great trepidation that I introduce you to David Paynter, better known as Paint, unrepentant moonshiner and heartbreaker.”

Eva subjected Paint to her pretend badass stare, a sure sign he was one of her favorite sparring partners. “Don’t you go messing with Brie, or I’ll bury you down yonder with Mark, once I nail his hide.”

Paint laughed, a deep, rumbling chuckle. He turned toward me and bowed like Rhett Butler reincarnated.

“Pleased to meet you, Brie. That puzzled look tells me you haven’t met Mark, the wily coyote that harasses Eva’s goats. She’s wasted at least six boxes of buckshot trying to scare him off. Me? I’ll gladly risk her shotgun to make your acquaintance. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Eva gave Paint a shove. “Well, if that’s the case, go on. Give Brie a shot of your peach moonshine. It’s pretty good.”

“Peach moonshine it is,” he said and took my arm. A second later, he tightened his grip and pulled me to the right. “Better watch your step. You almost messed up those pretty boots.”

He pointed at a fresh pile of fragrant poop, steaming in the brisk air inches from my suede boots. “Thanks,” I mumbled. Still holding my arm, he steered me over uneven ground to a clear path. “Eva says you’re staying with her. Hope you don’t have to leave for a while. Your aunt’s a fine lady, and it’s going to be mighty hard on her once this flock of well-wishers flies off.”

His baritone sent vibrations rippling through my body. My brain ordered me to ignore the tingling that remained in places it didn’t belong.

He smiled. “Eva and Lilly spoke about you so often I feel like we’re already friends. ’Course head-shaking accompanied some of their comments. They said you’d need to serve plenty of my moonshine if you ever opened a vegan B&B in Ardon County. Here abouts it’s considered unpatriotic to serve eats that haven’t been baptized in a vat of lard. Vegetables are optional; meat, mandatory.”

Uh, oh. I always gave relatives and friends a free pass on good- natured kidding. But a stranger? This man was poking fun at my profession, yet my hackles—smoothed by the hunk’s lopsided grin— managed only a faint bristle.

Back away. Pronto. Discovering my ex-fiancé, Jack, was boffing not one, but two co-workers the entire two years we were engaged made me highly allergic to lady-killers. Paint was most definitely a member of that tribe.

“What can I say? I’m a rebel,” I replied. “It’s my life’s ambition to convince finger-lickin’, fried-chicken lovers that life without meat, butter, eggs, and cheese does not involve a descent into the nine circles of hell.”

Paint released me, then raised his hand to brush a wayward curl from my forehead. His flirting seemed to be congenital.

“If you’re as feisty as your aunt claims, why don’t you take me on as a challenge? I do eat tomatoes—fried green ones, anyway—and I’m open to sampling other members of the vegetable kingdom. So long as they don’t get between me and my meat. Anyway, welcome to the Carolina foothills. Time to pour some white lightning. It’s smoother than you might expect.”

And so are you. Too smooth for me.

That’s when we heard the screams.

TWO

Paint zoomed off like a Clemson running back, hurtling toward the screams—human, not goat. I managed to stay within a few yards of him, slipping and sliding as my suede boots unwittingly smooshed a doggie deposit. Udderly’s guardian dogs, five Great Pyrenees, were large enough to saddle, and their poop piles rivaled cow paddies.

I reached the barn, panting, with a stitch in my right side. I stopped to catch my breath. Hallelujah. I braced my palm against the weathered barn siding.

Ouch. Harpooned by a jagged splinter. Blood oozed from the sensitive pad below my right thumb. I stared at the inch-plus spear. Paint had kept running. He was no longer in sight.

The screams stopped. An accident? A heart attack? I hustled around the corner of the barn. A little girl sobbed in the cleared area behind Udderly’s retail sales cabin. I recognized Jenny, a rambunctious five-year-old from a nearby farm. Her mother knelt beside her, stroking her hair.

No child had produced the operatic screams we’d heard. Maybe Jenny’s mother was the screamer. But the farm wife didn’t seem the hysterical type. On prior visits to Udderly, I’d stopped at the roadside stand where she sold her family’s produce. Right now the woman’s face looked redder than one of her Early Girl tomatoes. Was the flush brought on by some danger—a goat butting her daughter, a snake slithering near the little girl?

I walked closer. Then I saw it. A skull poked through the red clay. Soil had tinted the bone an absurd pink.

I gasped. The sizeable cranium looked human. I spotted the grave digger, or should I say re-digger. Udderly’s newest addition, a Vietnamese potbellied pig named Tammy, hunkered in a nearby puddle. Tiny cloven hoof marks led to and from the excavation. Tell-tale red mud dappled her dainty twitching snout. The pig’s hundred-pound body quivered as her porcine gaze roved the audience she’d attracted.

A man squatted beside Tammy, speaking to the swine in soothing, almost musical tones. Pigs were dang smart and sensitive. Aunt Eva told me it was easy to hurt their feelings. The fellow stroking Tammy’s grimy head must’ve been convinced she was one sensitive swine.

“It’s okay,” he repeated. “The lady wasn’t screaming at you, Tammy.”

Tammy snorted, lowered her head, and squeezed her eyes shut. The pig-whisperer gave the swine a final scratch and stood, freeing gangly limbs from his pretzel-like crouch. Mud caked the cuffs and knees of his khaki pants. Didn’t seem to bother him one iota.

The mother shepherded her little girl away from the disturbing scene, and Paint knelt to examine the skeletal remains. “Looks like piggy uncovered more than she bargained for.” He glanced at Muddy Cuffs. “Andy, you’re a vet. Animal or human?”

“Human.” Andy didn’t hesitate. “But all that’s left is bone. Had to have been buried a good while. Yet Tammy’s rooting scratched only inches below the surface. If a settler dug this grave, it was mighty shallow.”

“Probably didn’t start that way.” I pointed to a depression that began uphill near the retail cabin. “This wash has deepened a lot since my aunts built their store and the excavation diverted water away from the cabin. The runoff’s been nibbling away at the ground.”

Mom, Dad, and Aunt Eva joined the group eyeballing the skull. Eva looked peaked, almost ill. I felt a slight panic at the shift in her normally jolly appearance. I thought of my aunts as forces of nature. Unflappable. Indestructible. I’d lost one, and the other suddenly looked fragile. Finding a corpse on her property the same day she bid her twin goodbye had hit her hard.

Dad cocked his head. “Could be a Cherokee burial site. Or maybe a previous farmer buried a loved one and the grave marker got lost. Homestead burials have always been legal in South Carolina. Still are.”

For once, the idea of finding a corpse in an unexpected location didn’t prompt a gleeful chuckle from my dad, Dr. Howard Hooker. Though he was a professor of horticulture at Clemson University by day, he was an aspiring murder mystery author by night. Every time we went for a car ride, Dad made a game of searching the landscape for spots “just perfect” for disposing of bodies. So far, a dense patch of kudzu in a deep ravine topped his picks. “Kudzu grows so fast any flesh peeking through would disappear in a day.”

Good thing Dad confined his commentary to family outings. We knew the corpses in question weren’t real.

Mom whipped out her smartphone. “I’ll call Judge Glenn. It’s Sunday, but he always answers his cell. He’ll know who to call. I’m assuming the Ardon County Sheriff’s Department.”

Dad nodded. “Probably, but I bet SLED—the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division—will take over. The locals don’t have forensic specialists.”

Mom rolled her eyes. “You spend way too much time with your Sisters in Crime.”

It amused Mom that Dad’s enthusiasm for his literary genre earned him the presidency of the Upstate South Carolina Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Mom didn’t fool with fictional crime. Too busy with the real thing. As the City of Clemson’s attorney, she kept a bevy of lawyers, judges, and city and university cops on speed dial. However, Udderly Kidding wasn’t in the same county as Clemson so it sat outside her domain.

“Judge Glenn, this is Iris Hooker. I’m at the Udderly Kidding Dairy in Ardon. An animal here unearthed a skull. We think it’s human, but not recent. Should we call the sheriff?”

Mom nodded and made occasional I-get-it noises while she clamped the cell to her ear.

“Could you ask them to keep their arrival quiet? Better yet, could they wait until after four? About fifty folks are here for my sister-in- law’s wake. I don’t want to turn her farewell into a circus.”

A minute later, Mom murmured her thanks and pocketed her cell. “The judge agrees an old skull doesn’t warrant sirens or flashing lights. He’ll ask the Ardon County Sheriff, Robbie Jones, to come by after four. Since I’m an officer of the court, his honor just requested that I keep people and animals clear of the area until the sheriff arrives.”

Andy stood. “Paint, help me bring some hay bales from the barn. We can stack them to cordon off the area.”

“Good idea.” Paint stood, and the two men strode off. No needless chitchat. They appeared to be best buds.

I tugged Dad’s sleeve, nodded toward his sister, and whispered, “I think Aunt Eva should sit down. Let’s get her to one of the front porch rockers.”

Dad walked over and draped an arm around his sister’s shoulders. “Eva, let’s sit a while so folks can find you to pay their respects. This skeleton is old news. Not our worry.”

Eva’s lips trembled. “No, Brother. I feel it in my own bones. It’s that son-of-a-bitch Jed Watson come back to haunt me.”

THREE

Jed Watson? The man Eva married in college? The man who vanished a few years later?

Dad’s eyebrows shot up. “Eva, that’s nonsense. That dirtbag ran off forty years back. You’re letting your imagination run wild.”

Eva straightened. “Some crime novelist you are. You know darn well any skeleton unearthed on my property would have something to do with that nasty worm. Nobody wished that sorry excuse for a man dead more than me.”

“Calm down. Don’t spout off and give the sheriff some harebrained notion that pile of bones is Jed,” Dad said. “No profit in fueling gossip or dredging up ancient history. Authorities may have ruled Jed dead, but I always figured that no-good varmint was still alive five states over, most likely beating the stuffing out of some other poor woman.”

Wow. I knew Eva took her maiden name back after they declared her husband dead, but I’d never heard a speck of the unsavory backstory. Dad liked to tell family tales, including ones about long- dead scoundrels. Guess this history wasn’t ancient enough.

Curiosity made me eager to ask a whole passel of none-of-my- business questions, though I felt some justification about poking my nose here. I’d known Eva my entire life. So how come this was the first I’d heard of a mystery surrounding Jed’s disappearance? Was Dad truly worried the sheriff might suspect Eva?

I was dying to play twenty questions. Too bad it wasn’t the time or place.

I smiled at my aunt. “Why don’t I get some of Paint’s brew to settle our nerves? Eva, you like that apple pie flavor, right?”

“Yes, thanks, dear.”

“Good idea, Brie,” Dad added. “I’ll take a toot of Paint’s blackberry hooch. Eva’s not the only one who could use a belt. We’ll greet folks from those rockers. Better than standing like mannequins in a receiving line. And there’s a lot less risk of falling down if we get a little tipsy.”

Aunt Eva ignored Dad’s jest. She looked haunted, lost in memory. A very bad memory.

I hurried to the small tent where Magic Moonshine dispensed free libations. A buxom young lass smiled as she poured shine into miniature Mason jars lined up behind four flavor signs: Apple Pie, Blackberry, Peach, and White Lightnin’.

“What can I do you for, honey?” the busty server purred. I’m still an Iowa girl at heart, but, like my transplanted aunts and parents, I’ve learned not to take offense when strangers of both sexes and all ages call me honey, darlin’, and sweetie. My high school social studies teacher urged us to appreciate foreign customs and cultures. I may not be in Rome, but I’m definitely in Ardon County.

I smiled at Miss Sugarmouth. The top four buttons of her blouse were undone. The way her bosoms oozed over the top, I seriously doubted those buttons had ever met their respective buttonholes. No mystery why Paint hired her. Couldn’t blame him or her. Today’s male mourners would enjoy a dash of cleavage with their shine, and she’d rake in lots more tips.

“Sweetie, do you have a tray I can use to take drinks to the folks on the porch?”

The devil still made me add the “sweetie” when I addressed Miss Sugarmouth. She didn’t bat an eyelash. Probably too weighed down with mascara.

“Sure thing, honey.” I winced when the tray slid over the wood sliver firmly embedded in my palm. Suck it up. No time for minor surgery.

As I walked toward Eva’s cabin, crunching noises advertised some late arrivals ambling down the gravel road. On the porch, Dad and Eva had settled into a rhythm, shaking hands with friends and neighbors and accepting sympathy pats. Hard to hug someone in a rocker.

I handed miniature glass jars to Eva and Dad before offering drinks to the folks who’d already run the gauntlet of the sit-down receiving line. Then I tiptoed behind Dad’s rocker.

“I’ll see if Mom wants anything and check back later to see how you and Eva are doing.”

“Thanks, honey.” He kissed my cheek. I returned to Paint’s moonshine stand and picked up a second drink tray, gingerly hoisting it to avoid bumping my skewered palm. Balancing the drinks, I picked my way across the rutted ground to what I worried might be a crime scene.

Mom perched between Paint and Andy atop the double row of hay bales stacked to keep the grisly discovery out of sight. The five-foot-two height on Mom’s driver’s license was a stretch. At five-four, I had her by at least three, maybe four, inches. My mother’s build was tiny as well as short—a flat-chested size two. I couldn’t recall ever being able to squeeze into her doll-size clothes. My build came courtesy of the females on Dad’s side of the family. Compact but curvy. No possibility of going braless in polite society.

Mom’s delicate appearance often confounded the troublemakers she prosecuted for the city. Too often the accused took one look at Iris Hooker and figured they’d hire some hulking male lawyer to walk all over the little lady in court.

Big mistake. The bullies often reaped unexpected rewards—a costly mélange of jail time, fines, and community service.

Mom spotted my tray-wobbling approach. “Are these Paint’s concoctions?”

I nodded. “Well, Daughter, sip nice and slow. Someday I may file charges against Magic Moonshine. Paint’s shine is often an accomplice when Clemson tailgaters pull stunts that land them in front of a judge.”

Paint lifted his glass in a salute. “Can I help it if all our flavors go down easy?”

Mom turned back to me. “Have you met these, ahem, gentlemen?”

I suddenly felt shy as my gaze flicked between the two males. “I met Paint earlier. This is my first chance to say hi to Andy. I’m Brie Hooker. You must be the veterinarian Aunt Eva’s always talking about.”

Andy rose to his feet. “Andy Green. Pleased to meet you, ma’am. Your aunts were my very first customers when I opened my practice.”

He waved a hand at Tammy, the now demure pig, wallowing a goodly distance away. “I’m really sorry Tammy picked today to root up these bones. I feel partly to blame. Talked your aunts into adopting Miss Piggy. It aggravates me how folks can’t resist buying potbellied pigs as pets when they’re adorable babies, but have no qualms about abandoning them once they start to grow.”

Andy’s outstretched hand awaited my handshake. I held up my palm to display my injury. “Gotta take a rain check on a handshake. Unfortunately, I already shook hands with the barn.”

Andy gently turned up my palm. “I’ll fix you right up, if you don’t mind a vet doing surgery. Give me a minute to wash up and meet me at my truck. Can’t miss it. A double-cab GMC that kinda looks like aliens crash landed an aluminum spaceship in the truck bed. I’m parked by the milking barn.”

As Andy loped off toward the retail shop’s comfort station, Paint called after him. “Sneaky way to hold hands with a pretty lady.”

Andy glanced over his shoulder and grinned. “You’re just mad you didn’t think of it first.”

Paint chuckled and focused his hundred-watt grin on me. “Bet my white lightning could disinfect that sliver. Sure you don’t want me to do the honors?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Somehow I doubt honor has anything to do with it.”

The moonshiner faked an injured look. Mom rolled her eyes. “Heaven help me—and you, Brie. Not sure you’re safe with the wildlife that frequents this farm. Forget those coyotes that worry Eva, I’m talking wolves.” She looked toward the porch. “How’s Eva holding up?”

“Better.” I wanted to grill Mom about Jed Watson, but I needed to do so in private. “Guess I should steel myself for surgery.” I took a Mason jar from the tray I’d set on a hay bale. “Down the hatch.” My healthy swallow blazed a burning trail from throat to belly. Before I could stop myself, I sputtered.

“Shut your mouth,” Paint said. Yowzer. My eyes watered, and my throat spasmed. I coughed. “What?”

“Shut your mouth. Oxygen fuels the burn. You need to take a swallow then close your mouth. None of this sipping stuff.”

“Now you tell me.” I choked. Mom laughed. “That’s the best strategy I’ve heard yet to shut Brie up.”

I wiped at the tears running down my cheeks. “Your moonshine packs more punch than my five-alarm Thai stir fry.”

Paint’s eyebrows rose. “My shine is smooth, once you get used to it. You want a little fire in your gut. Keeps life interesting.”

A little too interesting. I’d been at Udderly Kidding Dairy just over a week, and I already felt like a spinning top with a dangerous wobble.

***
Excerpt from Bones To Pick by Linda Lovely.  Copyright © 2017 by Linda Lovely. Reproduced with permission from Linda Lovely. All rights reserved.

You can get your copy of Bones to Pick at : AmazonBarnes & Noble * Goodreads

Release Spotlight & Excerpt: OUT OF MY LEAGUE by Jennifer McCoy Blaske

Earlier this month, Jennifer McCoy Blaske released Out of My League, the second book in her Madison Musicians series.  I haven’t read this sweet romance yet, but it sounds like another one for the TBR list.

Synopsis (from Amazon)

OutLeagueCan a Google search lead to true love?

College freshman Annie O’Connor gets the opportunity of a lifetime when she’s hired to play keyboard alongside the amazing guitarist, Scott Stewart. He’s the perfect guy and she’s determined to get him to notice her as more than another musician.

In her quest to woo a guy who’s clearly out of her league, she stumbles across an Internet article called “5 Ways to Make a Guy Go Crazy Over You.” Maybe this is just the answer Annie is looking for.

However, Annie soon finds out that there are never easy solutions to life’s challenges, and that relationships — and people — are more complicated than she originally thought.

Read an excerpt:

My mother, who was a huge fan of 80s music, named me Annie Grace, after two of her favorite female songwriters, Annie Lennox, and Grace Slick. I hoped she wasn’t expecting me to follow in their footsteps and be a dazzling, flashy, and glamorous star in any way, because if she did, she had probably spent most of the last eighteen years of her life hiding her extreme disappointment.

I’m about as ordinary as they come. I have straight brown hair that usually hangs just below my shoulders, with bangs that seem to be the right length for four weeks of a year and slightly too long during the other forty-eight weeks. I rarely wear makeup, and I never wear any kind of trendy clothing or shoes. I never even know what is trendy. For all I know, I could be wearing it—but somehow, I kinda doubt it. I’m not a flashy, rock star kind of person. At all.

At least Mom ended up with a musician for a daughter, although whether her baby naming techniques worked is debatable. My older brother Peter—as in Gabriel—works for an accounting firm, so I wouldn’t recommend her strategy as a reliable way of programming your children’s personalities or careers. I’m a freshman piano performance major at Orchard City College. Now it might sound flashy and glamorous until you discover how my focus is on piano accompanying. Accompanists are probably the most unnoticed performers in existence. They get none of the glory, barely any applause, and to add insult to injury sometimes get their names left out of the program altogether. In fact, some people say the sign of a great accompanist is the audience never being aware of your presence. So, I certainly fit the part. Perhaps that’s why I’m so good at it.

Until Thursday, March 2, none of this ever bothered me. I was happy with my brown hair, my ordinary clothes, and my unnoticeable accompanist self. In fact, I wasn’t even aware of it enough to say that I was “pleased.” I never really thought about it. But all that changed on March 2.

Excerpt from OUT OF MY LEAGUE by Jennifer McCoy Blaske. Copyright © 2017

About the Author

When Jennifer McCoy Blaske isn’t writing, she works as a professional piano player for weddings and other events in the Atlanta area.

She has three kids, two cats, and one husband. Her TV shows of choice these days include The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidtt with her daughters and The Monkees with her 11 year old son. Jennifer and her daughters are patiently waiting for the second season of Stranger Things.

She loves to hear from fans and encourages them to connect with her in any of these ways:

Surprise release! THE MISPLACED DOG by Christa Nardi and Cassidy Salem

Christa Nardi and I are excited to announce the early release of our third Hannah and Tamar Mystery — The Misplaced Dog.  Thanks to speedy beta readers and an efficient editing process, it was ready ahead of schedule, so we decided not to keep our readers in suspense.

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Synopsis

A gorgeous addition places Playful Paws and its staff at the center of a mystery.

It’s love at first sight when Tamar meets Rusty – the newest resident at the local shelter where she volunteers. However, the arrival of the well-trained and affectionate dog coincides with the onset of suspicious and dangerous incidents involving the shelter and its staff. Is it a coincidence or is the dog the key to solving a major crime? In this latest addition to the Hannah and Tamar mystery series, the sisters are determined to find out.

Read an excerpt:

“I don’t get it. Why couldn’t you do your community service closer to home? I’m gonna be late for my study group at the library.”

The Playful Paws animal shelter was located on the eastern outskirts of Rosedale, Maryland. Only a 10 minute drive from Rosedale High, you’d think it was on the moon to judge from Hannah’s complaining.

“You know, I could drop you off at school and take the car the rest of the way myself. It’s not my fault you insist on driving.” Tamar knew that wasn’t going to happen.

“Fat chance.” Hannah shook her head.

Tamar had recently passed her driving test and was itching to spend more time behind the wheel, even if it meant putting up with her sister’s non-stop criticisms. Hannah, on the other hand, wasn’t about to give up the driver’s seat.

The Bertolet’s green Subaru Outback pulled up in front of a dreary, red brick building in Rosedale’s industrial area. The parking lot was half full.

“Be ready to leave at 6:30 – I’ll text you when I get here. And don’t make me wait for you. Dad’ll be mad if we’re late.”

“Alright. I get it. Your wish is my command.” Tamar slammed the car door shut and headed into the building.

The ever-present scent of disinfectant and incessant barking filled the building. Playful Paws was just one of the animal shelters in the greater Baltimore area that housed cats and dogs in need of a good home. Temporary residents, the animals were kept in two rows of enclosures in an old warehouse.

Tamar stopped to greet two other volunteers, Zola and Jason, who were busy sweeping out the enclosures and filling water dishes.

“Hi, Tamar. How’s it going?” Zola was a second-year student at Towson University, where she was majoring in zoology. Tall and slim with long blonde hair and big blue eyes, she looked like a model.

“Great. So looking forward to our next adoption event.”

Jason watched the two young women but didn’t say anything. A senior at a different high school, Jason flashed Tamar a shy smile. It was his second year volunteering at the shelter, and he was almost never at a loss for words, except for when Tamar was around. Zola was amused by his obvious interest in the slender, dark haired teen who seemed oblivious to his admiration.

Tamar spoke softly to the residents as she walked down the long row of enclosures to reach the office in the back. This Paws shelter had a total of 18 enclosures, eight large enclosures on one side of the aisle, 10 smaller enclosures on the other. The center currently housed 19 dogs.

Two dogs were curled up together in the enclosure closest to the office. A bit of an odd couple – a small dachshund and a full grown Irish Setter. When the setter raised its head and gazed into Tamar’s eyes, her heart melted. She immediately spoke to the setter.

“Hey there, how’d you end up here?”

Joel Newman, the manager, stood in the doorway to the office. Passionate about animal welfare, the thirty-something year old worked as a free-lance designer to pay his bills. He always wore jeans and a t-shirt regardless of the weather, and today was no different. “I see our latest guests have made an impression.”

“Wow. That setter is gorgeous. Where did she come from? How could anyone surrender such a beautiful dog?”

“First, she is a he. Of course, it’s hard to tell the way he’s curled up right now. A lady found him wandering around the industrial area and dropped him off right before you got here. He has a collar but no tags. I was about to check to see if he’s chipped.”

“I’ll do it.”

Tamar reached for the handheld RFID reader. Although Maryland doesn’t require owners to have microchips implanted in their pets, the widespread practice makes it easier to identify and contact the owners of lost pets. As soon as she let herself into the enclosure, the dog sat upright and smiled; at least it looked like a smile to her.

She crouched down and held out her hand, waiting for the dog to come to her. He ambled over and smelled her hand before giving it a gentle nudge. She scratched him behind the ears and stroked his silky fur. He had a leather collar, his fur wasn’t matted, and he wasn’t shy.

The small brown dachshund was soon bouncing around her feet, demanding her share of attention. With the scanner tucked under her arm, Tamar tried to pet them both.

“You do realize you can’t play with them and scan the setter at the same time.” Joel chided her. “I think I’d better do it myself.”

Tamar shrugged.

Joel let himself in and took the scanner from her. Standing next to the setter, he commanded, “Sit.” And the dog sat. As he waved the scanner over the animal’s left shoulder, an indicator on the device flashed.

“Great, it looks like he has a chip.” He pressed a button on the device to save the reading and smiled. “Now, maybe we can find out who he belongs to.”

Back at the desk, Joel attempted to pull up the scanned data on his screen. “That’s odd.” A popup message indicated that no ID data had been found.

Tamar peered over his shoulder. “Must be an old or faulty chip.”

“What about the dachshund?”

“Already checked. No chip. No collar, either. Found her sitting outside when I got back from lunch. Well, since it looks like these two guys are going to be here for a while, we might as well give them names.”

Zola had walked over and heard the latter part of the conversation. “Let’s call the dachshund Ducky.”

“And the setter looks like a Rusty to me.” Tamar said.

“Sounds good to me. Let’s get their general descriptions, nicknames, and photographs into the database. I didn’t notice any immediate medical needs, still I’ll let Dr. Goodman know we have two new guests.”  

Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved

 

The third book in the Hannah and Tamar YA mystery series,  The Misplaced Dog is available for Kindle at a special introductory price of just $0.99 for a limited time only.  Of course, it is also available in paperback or through Kindle Unlimited.

About the Series

The release of The Mysterious Package in October 2016 marked the launch of the Hannah and Tamar Mystery series, a new mystery series for young adults and teens written by Christa Nardi and Cassidy Salem.  Mrs. Tedesco’s Missing Cookbook was released in April 2017.  For more about the series, click here.

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Review & Giveaway: APPOINTMENT WITH ISIL by Joe Giordano

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As part of a blog tour organized by Italy Book Tours,  I recently read Appointment with ISIL a new thriller by Joe Giordano.

ApptwithISIL_cover.pngDescription

An Anthony Provati Literary Thriller 

This time, Anthony’s libido threatens his life. Anthony Provati flirts with Russian mob boss, Gorgon Malakhov’s mistress. The Russian deals in death. ISIL, the Islamic State in the Levant, wants the product. Russian Intelligence supplies the means, and an art theft funds the scheme.

ISIL’s targets are chilling. The chase across the Mediterranean is on. Can Anthony thwart ISIL? Will he survive?

My Review

Anthony is a piano player and a nice guy, but his better judgment goes out the window whenever he is confronted with a beautiful woman. He is ill-equipped to cope with the threats of a seasoned Russian mobster, and soon finds himself in the unlikely role of unofficial investigator as he tries to keep himself and the women he loves safe.  The course of events brings him in to the middle of conflicts between Italian, Colombian, Jewish, and Russian mobsters.

The author has created a somewhat disturbing scenario where Russian mobsters help ISIL prepare for a major terrorist attack.  Disturbing not because of the details, disturbing because it strikes home with respect to the threat from terror faced around the world today.  Anthony is not a spy or a government agent he happens on the details and does his best to pass the info on to the relevant authorities  with predicable and unpredictable results.  Spanning four continents and multiple cultures, Appointment with ISIL was an interesting read.

FTC Disclosure:   I received a complimentary ARC of this book. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

Giveaway

Click to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win a signed copy of Appointment with ISIL.

About the Author

Joe GiordanoJoe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. He and his wife, Jane, have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and the Netherlands. They now live in Texas.

Joe’s stories have appeared in more than ninety magazines including The Monarch Review, The Saturday Evening Post, decomP, The Summerset Review, and Shenandoah. His novel, Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, was published by Harvard Square Editions October 2015. His second novel, Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller was recently released by HSE.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Pinterest

Showcase & Giveaway: DREAM A LITTLE DEATH by Susan Kandel

As part of a blog tour organized by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours, today’s post showcases a recently released mystery by Susan Kandel – DREAM A LITTLE DEATH.

Description

dreamalittledeathFrom critically acclaimed author Susan Kandel comes a charming new mystery featuring Dreama Black and a cast of zany LA-based characters.

The first time I set eyes on Miles McCoy, I worried he might try to eat me. He was the size and girth of a North American grizzly, with long, silver-tipped hair, a long silver-tipped beard, and small dark eyes that bore into me like I was a particularly fine specimen of Chinook salmon. It couldn’t have helped that I’d used a honey scrub the morning we met. I should’ve known better. Not just about the scrub, but about a lot of things.

Like braving the freeway during rush hour.
Like thinking you can’t get a ticket for parking at a broken meter.
Like racing up to his penthouse in gladiator sandals, and expecting not to twist an ankle.
Like watching his fiancée shoot herself, and assuming it was suicide, instead of murder.

Meet Dreama Black. A 28 year-old, third-generation groupie trying to figure out who she is after being publicly dumped by the rock god whose mega-hit, “Dreama, Little Dreama” made the name and the girl world-famous. Now Dreama supports herself by running custom-designed, themed tours of her hometown of L.A. When she is hired by a Raymond Chandler-obsessed rap producer to create a “L.A. noir” tour as his present to his soon-to-be bride, Dreama gets pulled into the middle of a possible murder, corrupt cops, and an unforgettable pair of femme fatales.

Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble  | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

The first time I set eyes on Miles McCoy, I worried he might try to eat me. He was the size and girth of a North American grizzly bear, with long silver-tipped hair, a long silver-tipped beard, and small dark eyes that bore into me like I was a particularly fine specimen of Chinook salmon. It couldn’t have helped that I’d used a honey scrub the morning we met. I should’ve known better. Not just about the scrub, but about a lot of things.

Like braving the freeway during rush hour.

Like thinking you can’t get a ticket for parking at a broken meter.

Like racing up to his penthouse in Balenciaga gladiator sandals, and expecting not to twist an ankle.

Like watching his fiancée shoot herself, and assuming it was suicide, instead of murder.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, which is another thing I should know better about. Because if I’ve learned anything at all from my study of film noir (which got me into the whole sordid Miles McCoy mess to begin with), it is to tell the story in the precise order in which it happened.

The trouble started the day before, which was Valentine’s Day, a pagan holiday named after the Roman priest who defied Claudius II by marrying Christian couples. After being hauled off in shackles, the soft-hearted cleric was beaten with clubs, stoned, and when that didn’t finish him off, publicly beheaded. Makes you think.

It had poured rain for eight days running, which isn’t what you sign on for when you live in Los Angeles. But that morning, as I stepped outside for a run, the sun was blinding—so blinding, in fact, that I didn’t see the fragrant valentine my neighbor’s dog, Engelbart, had left on the stoop for me. Not that I minded spending the next twenty minutes cleaning the grooves of my running shoe with a chopstick. It was a beautiful day. The rollerbladers were cruising the Venice boardwalk. The scent of medical marijuana was wafting through the air. Engelbart’s gastrointestinal tract was sound.

An hour later, I hopped into my mint green 1975 Mercedes convertible, and made my way up Lincoln to the freeway. I was headed to Larchmont, an incongruous stretch of Main Street, USA, sandwiched between Hollywood and Koreatown. This was where studio executives’ wives and their private school daughters came for green juice, yoga pants, and the occasional wrench from the general store that had served Hancock Park since the 1930s. It was also where my mother and grandmother ran Cellar Door, known for its chia seed porridge and life-positive service. I helped out whenever my coffers were running low. Which was most of the time.

You are probably frowning right about now. Surely a young woman who owns a classic convertible—as well as Balenciaga gladiators—should not be perennially low on funds. But it’s true.

The car came from my grandmother, who received it as part of her third (fourth?) divorce settlement and gave it to me as a gift when I strong-armed my mother into rehab for the fourth (fifth?) time. The sandals I purchased online in a frenzy of self-loathing shortly after watching my ex-boyfriend the rock god serenading his current girlfriend the supermodel on an otherwise uneventful episode of Ellen. I’d tried to return the sandals, but one of the studs had fallen off, making them damaged goods. Like their owner. Not that I’m hard on myself. It’s just that my career—I take clients on custom-designed, private tours of my hometown of L.A.—wasn’t exactly thriving, which is why I was easy prey for the likes of Miles McCoy. But I’m getting ahead of myself again. Here comes the good part. The part where I’m driving like the wind and almost don’t notice the flashing lights in my mirror. I knew I should have fixed that taillight.

I pulled over, cut the motor, handed the cop my license and registration. He looked down, then did a double take. “Dreama Black?”

That would be me.

“The Dreama Black?” he continued. “As in ‘Dreama, Little Dreama’?”

Perhaps I should explain.

I am a twenty-eight-year-old, third-generation rock ’n’ roll groupie—or “muse,” as the women in my family like to put it.

My grandmother, a fine-boned blonde who never met a gossamer shawl or Victorian boot she didn’t like, spent the sixties sleeping her way through Laurel Canyon, winding up in a house on Rothdell Trail (a.k.a. “Love Street”) purchased for her by a certain lead singer of a certain iconic band whose name is the plural of the thing that hits you on the way out.

My mother, blessed with thick, dark tresses and a way with mousse, was consort to many of the pseudo-androgynous alpha males of American hair metal, her chief claim to fame an MTV video in which she writhed across the hood of a Porsche wearing a white leotard and black, thigh-high boots. She also bought Axl Rose his first kilt.

As for me, well, I was on my way to freshman orientation when this guy I’d been seeing, who’d played a couple of no-name clubs with some friends from summer camp, intercepted me at LAX, put his lips to my ear, and hummed the opening bars of a new song I’d apparently inspired. Instead of boarding the plane for Berkeley, I boarded the tour bus with Luke Cutt and the other skinny, pimply members of Rocket Science. Four world tours, three hit albums, two Grammys, and one breakup later, “Dreama, Little Dreama”—an emo pop anthem that went gold in seven days and has sold eleven million copies to date—had made me almost famous forever.

“Step out of the car, please.”

The cop removed his sunglasses. Peach fuzz. Straight out of the academy. “So.”

He wanted to get a picture with me.

“I’d love to get a picture with you,” he said.

I smoothed down my cut-offs and striped T-shirt, removed my red Ray-Bans, ran my fingers through my long, straight, freshly balayaged auburn hair. The cop put his arm around me, leaned in close, took a couple of snaps on his phone. Let me guess. He’d had a crush on me since tenth grade, when he saw me in a white tank and no bra on the cover of Rocket Science’s debut C.D., and now he was going to post the pictures on Instagram to show all his buddies.

“Awesome.” He gave me a brotherly punch on the arm. “No way is my wife going to believe this. She’s crazy about Luke Cutt. Hey, is he really dating that Victoria’s Secret Angel? She is smoking hot.”

At least I didn’t get the ticket.

Excerpt from Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel.  Copyright © 2017 by Susan Kandel. Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter for a chance to win one of 5 eBook copies of Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel.

About the Author

An Agatha, Edgar, and SCIBA nominee, Susan Kandel is the author of the nationally best-selling and critically acclaimed Cece Caruso series, the most recent of which, Dial H for Hitchcock (Morrow), was named by NPR as one of the five best mysteries of the year. A Los Angeles native, she was trained as an art historian, taught at NYU and UCLA, and spent a decade as an art critic at the Los Angeles Times. When not writing, she volunteers as a court-appointed advocate for foster children, and loves to explore secret, forgotten, and kitschy L.A. She lives with her husband in West Hollywood.

Catch Up with the Author on:
Website , Goodreads , Twitter , & Facebook !

Review & Giveaway: UNCORKING A LIE by Nadine Nettmann

As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Free Virtual Book Tours,  I recently read Uncorking a Lie (A Sommelier Mystery) by Nadine Nettmann.

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It was the kind of invitation Katie Stillwell had only dreamed about: a dinner party at the Sonoma mansion of famed wine collector Paul Rafferty to celebrate a rare bottle of wine. Everyone enjoys drinking the $19,000 wine, but Katie realizes it’s not the older vintage listed on the label. When she confides in Mr. Rafferty, he asks her to investigate, and she soon discovers the deception goes beyond money. As Katie falls deeper into the world of counterfeit wine, she learns everything is at stake―even her life.

My Review

Having read the first book in this series, I enjoyed getting reacquainted with Katie.  She is a dedicated wine lover, who seeks to advance to the highest level of sommelier accreditation.  And she is smart and determined in her pursuit of the truth about the wine and the suspicious death of a friend.  At the same time, she is impulsive and somewhat reckless.  The underlying plot is engaging, with multiple suspects and a plot that comes together nicely in the end.  A pleasant read, easily enjoyed by lovers of wine and mystery.

FTC Disclosure:   I received an advance review copy of this book as part of this blog tour.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way. 

Giveaway

Click here to enter a rafflecopter for a chance to win a print copy of Uncorking a Lie.

About the Author

Nadine Nettmann, a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, is always on the lookout for great wines and the stories behind them. She has traveled to wine regions around the world including Chile, South Africa, Spain, Germany, and every region in France. When she’s not visiting wine regions or dreaming up new mysteries, her travel articles have appeared in AAA Hawaii, New Mexico Journey, Modern Luxury Hawaii, and Inspirato. Nadine is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. She lives in California with her husband.

Author Links 

Purchase Links
Amazon  B&N 

Spotlight: FINDING CLAIRE by Pamela Humphrey

It’s always fun to discover new authors and new books. Here’s a recently released mystery you might want to consider reading on that next cold wintry day.

sm_finding-claire-_front-coverDescription

She wakes up in the back of a van, and her whole world changes.

Injured and afraid–with no recollection of who she is–she stumbles through the Texas Hill Country with a photo labeled Claire. Seeking safety, she knocks at Alex’s cabin door. He protects her, even though she stirs up memories that haunt him.

She wants her life back. He wants to ease his guilt and will protect her even if it means risking his own life. Together they search, hoping questions will be answered by Finding Claire.

Excerpt

Chapter One

January 8, 2016 – 9:27pm

The night I woke up in the back of a van with my hands bound, my whole world changed. It was a Friday.

I opened my eyes and fought to remember how I ended up in a dark, moving vehicle. As if rising from the depths of a deep lake, I struggled, desperate for a glimpse of the familiar. Rope burned my wrists. I didn’t have the presence of mind or the courage to formulate an escape. Panic rendered me useless as someone drove me to the middle of nowhere.

The kidnappers’ most helpful accomplice, my own fear, held me prisoner. The worst part of it all, my mind hid memories from me. I didn’t even know my own name.

A greasy, foul-smelling man marched me into a dark house. Images of how I’d be killed flashed through my mind when he shoved me into a putrid closet. Another man did his bidding, and talked incessantly. More than a day, being fed nothing but bologna sandwiches, I wallowed in that tiny space.

About the Author

Pamela Humphrey is a homeschooling mom of three, an amateur genealogist, a crafter, a wanna-be bass guitarist, and the author of Finding Claire, The Blue Rebozo, and Researching Ramirez: On the Trail of the Jesus Ramirez Family. Inspired by genealogy, she writes fiction that weaves the past into the present. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband, sons, black cats, and leopard gecko.

Finding Claire is available from:

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Guest Post, Spotlight & Giveaway: SEND IN THE CLOWNS by Julie Mulhern

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As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Free Virtual Book Tours,  I am pleased to have USA Today bestselling author Julie Mulhern as my guest today as she celebrates the release of her latest cozy mystery –Send in the Clowns.


On writing by Julie Mulhern

I’ve been writing for what feels like seventy-two hours straight. My eyes itch. My neck hurts. Homophones have banded together and declared me their sworn enemies. You have to watch out for those homophones – there attacks are two sneaky.

Not that I’m complaining—it’s just that when I imagined being a writer, I imagined picking up a pen when the muse struck. And bon-bons. Lots and lots of bon-bons.

The reality is a book release and a deadline on top of each other, cheap chocolate, and two (begone foul homophone!) too much coffee. The reality isn’t a muse, it’s an ever-expanding butt in seat, fingers poised on a keyboard, and words—even crappy words—adding up to a first draft.

Writing is not the glamorous pursuit I imagined. Instead, it’s stumbling out of bed in the dark, pulling on a ratty bathrobe, blindly pushing the button on the coffee maker, and writing—every day.

You know what? I wouldn’t change a thing…well, maybe the bon-bons.


About Send in the Clowns

send-in-the-clownsHaunted houses are scary enough without knife-wielding clowns. Especially murderous knife-wielding clowns. So thinks Ellison Russell, single mother, artist, and reluctant sleuth.

Now death wears a red nose and Ellison is up to the blood-stained collar of her new trench coat in costumes, caffeine, and possible killers. Who stabbed Brooks Harney? And why? Money? Jealousy? Drugs?

With Mother meddling, her father furious, and her date dragged downtown for questioning, turns out Ellison’s only confidante is Mr. Coffee.

Books in the Country Club Murders Humorous Mystery Series:

* THE DEEP END (#1)
* GUARANTEED TO BLEED (#2)
* CLOUDS IN MY COFFEE (#3)
* SEND IN THE CLOWNS (#4)

Giveaway

Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win one of five e-copies of Send in the Clowns.

julieAbout Julie Mulhern

Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders. She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean–and she’s got an active imagination. Truth is–she’s an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.

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