Thursday, April 6, 2017

Cozy Blog Tour: Author Guest Post, Review & Giveaway: A Frying Shame (Deep Fried Mystery #3) by Linda Reilly

Fry another day.

The town of Wrensdale is abuzz with excitement when Steeltop Foods sponsors a cooking contest to promote its new product, the Flavor Dial. With a $25,000 prize at stake, all the contestants are on edge, including Talia Marby, owner of Fry Me A Sliver. She hopes her mini deep-fried apple pies will win her the money to pay off the renovations on her restaurant. But when Norma Ferguson wins with her flaky-top chicken stew, the tensions dial up even more.

After Norma is found dead at her cooking station, the police suspect a losing contestant got a little too hot under the collar. Now it’s crunch time as Talia works to catch the killer and clear her name before another cook gets burned.




A funny thing happened on the way to the publisher . . .

There are so many components that go into writing a mystery. Fun characters, sneaky red herrings, a plethora of guilty-looking suspects . . .  all of these have to be dumped together, shaken up, and poured out into a cohesive story.

When I was writing the initial draft of A FRYING SHAME, I needed to come up with a street name. The street itself wasn’t important—simply a quick reference by the police detective as to why she was late for her meeting with Talia Marby, my main character.

Normally I’d stare out the window to dream up a name, or I’d think of a street name from my childhood. I still can’t recall how I came up with “Oriole Road” that day, but it found its way into the story.

A few months after I turned in the manuscript to my publisher, my husband broke his hip. During the early stages of his post-surgery rehab, we decided the time was right for us to move to a place where he’d no longer have to climb stairs. I found a promising apartment complex nearby, and decided to check it out. A newly renovated unit had just become available, with full bath and master bedroom on the ground level. It was perfect! Even more delightful was that the upstairs bedroom would make the ideal writing lair for me.

We took the apartment. As soon as my husband was well enough to go home after weeks of physical therapy, we moved in. The address of our wonderful new apartment? Oriole Court. But the street name didn’t even ring a bell -- not until the publisher sent me the edits for A Frying Shame. I was stunned to realize I’d named a random street Oriole Road months before we’d even thought about moving! (insert Twilight Zone music here)

I’ll bet you’re thinking I’d driven past that street before, and that somehow the name got stuck in my sub-conscious. Nope. Oriole Court is an internal street within the apartment community. I couldn’t have seen it from the main drag unless I’d driven into the complex. And I hadn’t.

I’ve decided that the universe was whispering in my ear the day I made up that street name. The hubby and I are very happy in our Oriole Court apartment, just as Talia Marby, the fry cook in the Deep Fried mysteries, is loving her new digs in Wrensdale, Massachusetts. Living in her nana’s bungalow, she’s been having a blast transforming the old fish and chips shop into a deep-fried eatery.

But it’s not without its challenges. Wherever Talia goes, murder seems to pop into the picture. If you’re in the Berkshires, stop by Fry Me a Sliver and enjoy a deep-fried treat. The ambiance is cozy, the AC is pumping out chilled air, and the deep fryer is sizzling. And be sure to eavesdrop on the local gossip . . . you can bet it’ll be all about murder.

Ms. Reilly does it again with her newest addition to the charming Deep Fried Mystery series. The small town feel, the hilariously tenacious heroine, and a well thought out murder mystery that keeps you guessing from beginning to end help this book evolve in to a wonderful story. It's a perfect addition to this always fresh and exciting series. 

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have ONE copy of A Frying Shame to give away to one of my lucky readers! To enter, please fill out the rafflecopter below. Good luck! :)

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Cozy Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway: Blood Orange (China Bayles #24) by Susan Wittig Albert

In the newest China Bayles Mystery in the New York Times bestselling series, China comes to the aid of a nurse who ends up in the hospital...

It’s mid-April in Pecan Springs, and China is renting her guest cottage to Kelly Kaufman, who needs a temporary place to live as she contends with a very acrimonious divorce from her husband Rich. One nasty point of dispute is her part ownership of the Comanche Creek Brewing Company, which she is refusing to sell.

At the same time, as a nurse employed by a local hospice, Kelly has discovered instances of suspicious practices. Even more disturbing, she suspects that a patient was murdered. Kelly’s knowledge could be dangerous, and she wants to get guidance from China on what to do.

But on her way to China’s house, Kelly is forced off the road and critically injured, putting her in a medically induced coma. Now it’s up to China to determine who wanted her out of the picture. Was it her soon-to-be ex? His new lover—who happens to be the sister of China’s friend Ruby? Or someone connected with the corruption at the hospice?

China owes it to her friend to uncover the truth—but she may be putting her own life at risk. 

I always enjoy Susan Wittig Albert's writing style. She has the ability to transform a great idea into a well-written novel, and does a fantastic job of keeping the story line moving at a quick and exciting pace. So to say that I enjoyed the story of Blood Orange itself is an understatement. I truly did, and I truly enjoyed revisiting China. 

That being said, however, I wasn't too keen on the idea of China being anything but a strong-willed and tenacious woman. There are moments in this book that are very unbecoming of her character, and shed her husband in a not so favorable light. Which, I know isn't necessarily untrue to real life situations, but it was an odd twist to the character that I've grown to love. 

Overall, it's a solid book, but I'm really hoping for something more with this series soon. 

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have ONE copy of Blood Orange to give away to one of my lucky readers! To enter, fill out the rafflecopter below. Good luck! :) 

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Cozy Blog Tour: Author Guest Post, Review & Giveaway: The Last Chance Olive Ranch (China Bayles #25) by Susan Wittig Albert

In this exciting new mystery from New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert, China Bayles fears for her husband’s life as an escaped convict targets him...
 
Max Mantel, the killer McQuaid put away years ago, has busted out of Huntsville Prison and appears to be headed for Pecan Springs. McQuaid knows there’s only one way to stop the vengeful convict—set a trap with himself as bait.
 
China wants to stay by her husband’s side and keep him from harm. But McQuaid  insists that she get out of town and go to the Last Chance Olive Ranch, where she’s agreed to teach a workshop on herbs.
 
When China and her best friend arrive at the ranch, she learns the owner, Maddie Haskell, has her own troubles. She inherited the ranch and olive oil business from the late matriarch, Eliza Butler, but Eliza’s nephew is contesting the will. 
 
While China throws herself into helping Maddie, McQuaid’s plan backfires when Mantel executes a countermove he never saw coming. Now McQuaid’s life is not the only one at stake—and this time may really be his last chance.



This year marks the publication of the 25th China Bayles mystery, The Last Chance Olive Ranch. Gosh—it seems like yesterday when the first book, Thyme of Death, came out. But that was way back in 1992, the same year that Bill Clinton became president, Hurricane Andrew bulldozed across South Florida, and Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven cleaned up at the Oscars. To tell the truth, I never imagined that China and Ruby would be still be sleuthing, 25 books later. But I’m glad they are, for they’ve given me, as their partner-in-crime, many wonderful (and challenging) hours of writing fun.
Back in the day, those early China Bayles mysteries broke some new ground. For one thing, regional mysteries were fairly new to readers, and I was a little worried that a small town in the Texas Hill Country might not be appealing. What’s more, China was a shop owner, an herbalist, and a gardener, the first of her kind in the U.S. (British mystery author John Sherwood had already written several books in his Celia Grant horticultural series but there were none in America.) China’s mysteries were also among the first to feature recipes (Diane Mott Davidson began doing this at about the same time). And China Bayles herself was the first ex-lawyer (a criminal attorney) coupled with an ex-cop boyfriend/husband.

To my mind, it was China’s background as a lawyer that made her different from other female amateur sleuths—and still does. She’s had experience with lots of different bad guys, which gives her an eye for criminals and a pretty strong sense of who isn’t telling the truth. She knows the law and is trained to spot the ways people—both bad guys and good—use the legal system to their advantage. Her relationship with Mike McQuaid has given her an insight into the way cops and professional investigators think and work, and her friendship with Sheila Dawson, Pecan Springs’ first female chief of police, provides a strong connection to local law enforcement. On the other hand, her longtime friendship with highly-intuitive slightly-wacky Ruby Wilcox gives her a different view of what’s going on.

And of course, the plants themselves made the series different back then, and still do. Herbs—used for good or for ill, wisely or ill-advisedly—are powerful medicine, and each of China’s adventures has taught me a great deal about the wide, wonderful world of plants. The Last Chance Olive Ranch is no exception. For while the olive has been a delicious and nutritious mainstay in diets across the centuries, science is only beginning to understand all of its medicinal properties. Olive oil (more accurately, the juice of the olive) has been used to prevent cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis. It is reported to be beneficial in treating constipation, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and blood vessel problems associated with diabetes. Topically, olive oil is applied to the skin to ease minor burns and wounds. It has also been used as an important lubricant and as a fuel for lamps and other—

But we won’t go into that. It might spoil the story for you. So I’ll just invite you to pour a cup of tea, grab a handful of your favorite cookies (maybe Ruby’s Hot Lips Cookie Crisps*), and settle in with The Last Chance Olive Ranch. It has all the elements that make China Bayles a true Texas original: an amateur sleuth with a green thumb and a serious nose for prime-thyme crime. I hope you enjoy it!

*Ruby’s Hot Lips Cookie Crisps

1 cup soft shortening
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1½ cup finely chopped cashews
1½ cups whole wheat flour
1½ cups unbleached flour
½ tsp soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp habanero powder

Preheat oven to 325°F. Cream butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and eggs and mix well. Mix the dry ingredients together with the nuts, and stir into the creamed mixture. Chill. Shape into a log about 2" in diameter, slice, and bake until golden.

Author Bio
Susan Wittig Albert is the New York Times bestselling author of four Prime Crime series: China Bayles, The Darling Dahlias, The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and (with her husband, Bill Albert) the Robin Paige Victorian Mysteries. She also writes historical fiction. Recent titles: The General’s Women, Loving Eleanor, and A Wilder Rose. Her website: www.susanalbert.com

I have been a follower of the China Bayles series from the get-go. It's had up and down moments for me, but The Last Chance Olive Ranch was a redeeming moment for Ms. Albert and her series. It is a wonderfully written book that validated the fact that you CAN have a series go on for 25 books and still manage to eek out fresh material. It was very reassuring for me that China is still such a force in the cozy genre. 

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have ONE copy of The Last Chance Olive Ranch to give away to one of my lucky readers. To enter, please fill out the rafflecopter below. 

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Cozy Mystery Blog Tour: Author Guest Post, Review & Giveaway: Caramel Crush (Cupcake Bakery #9) by Jenn McKinlay

When a breakup via cupcake threatens to crumble their friend’s life for good, Mel and Angie race to solve the murder as this New York Times bestselling series continues…

Love is in the air at Fairy Tale Cupcakes as Angie prepares for her wedding, but co-owner, Mel, is preparing for a breakup. Her old friend, Diane Earnest, is dumping her fiancĂ© after discovering he’s only marrying her for her money. She wants Mel to personally deliver a batch of caramel breakup cupcakes to the louse and give her a play-by-play of his reaction.

When Mel finally tracks the man down, the look on his face isn’t the reaction she was expecting: he’s dead. After the police arrive and see the incriminating cupcakes, Diane becomes their prime suspect. If she hopes to taste freedom again, Mel and Angie must make sure the real killer gets their just desserts. 





Weddings. They bring out the crazy in a person, don’t they? I’ve done more tours of duty as a bridesmaid and maid of honor than I can count on two hands, and it never ceases to amaze me how a seemingly normal woman, a person I’ve known for years, through acne, braces, thin letters from our dream schools, first boyfriends, bad breakups, and finding true love, can suddenly morph into a flower, dress, and cake obsessed zombie swathed in organza and tulle with a tiara on her head. I believe we call her bridezilla.

I’m not really sure how it starts. The guy proposes and everything is all happy and sparkling and look-at-the-ring-bling and then, about when the couple sets the date, the whole thing turns into a carnival of curiosities. Brides wearing aptly named bridal diapers (no, I’m not kidding). Apparently, this is a thing now so that the bride doesn’t have to use the restroom on her special day. Ew. Then there are the bridesmaids getting plastic surgery so they are perfect looking for the bride’s wedding photo op (oh, horror!). And lastly, my personal favorite, the bride having a life-sized cake replica of herself in all of her bridal finery (mercy!).

While writing Caramel Crush, it was hilarious and horrifying to research the new and different things happening in the wedding industry. Thankfully, my own wedding, was long enough ago that the crazy hadn’t really begun to happen. Having a videographer and a band, which my groom was in, was about as crazy as we got. Nowadays, wedding parties have to dance down the aisle because it’s not enough to walk and hold flowers while trying not to trip. At the reception, there has to be a fully choreographed bump and grind with the groom and all of his groomsmen for the bride or the bride and her father have to bust out some slick dance moves with which to wow the crowd. One hopes Dad doesn’t throw his back out.

If no one in the family or wedding party has any sense of rhythm then it’s the theme wedding extravaganza with the event held in a Scottish castle, where everyone wears a kilt, even though no one getting married is actually Scottish. A lesser theme, of course, is the barn wedding, again where no one is actually a farmer, with the mason jar and burlap accessories to match. Both of those theme weddings could be spectacular and fun, so I can see the appeal there, but there is one trend that I simply refuse to accept. Yes, I’m sorry, but I really have to stomp my foot in protest here, what is up with the naked cake? Yes, you read that right. Naked -- as in no frosting naked. This makes me wonder what exactly is the point of having cake anyway? Why not just give everyone a slice of bread or a muffin? Honestly, it’s wrong on so many levels.

Thankfully, I do not think the naked cake thing really took off. Continued research assured me that the hot trends are gourmet flavors of heavily frosted cake (yay!) instead of the plain old vanilla and chocolate. Also, another favorite trend is that the show stealing kids bearing rings and flowers have been replaced by the furry kids. Dogs are now in vogue for some sweet aisle time. Another cool trend is the destination wedding, where whole weekends are devoted to a couple’s big day. I like this trend. I mean if you’re going to Scotland for a wedding, you might as well make the most of it and bag your very own Jamie Fraser, you know, if you’re single.

So, how much of all of this zany research did I use while writing Caramel Crush? Well, it is Angie DeLaura, our favorite bakery bestie, planning her wedding so you can imagine it might get intense. But there’s only one way to find out. Read the book! Here’s a glimpse at the story so you can see what’s happening to our crazy cupcake crew this time.

When a breakup via cupcake threatens to crumble their friend’s life for good, Mel and Angie race to solve the murder as this New York Times bestselling series continues…

Love is in the air at Fairy Tale Cupcakes as bridezilla Angie prepares for her wedding, but co-owner, Mel, is preparing for a breakup. Her old friend, Diane Earnest, is dumping her fiancĂ© after discovering he’s only marrying her for her money. She wants Mel to personally deliver a batch of caramel breakup cupcakes to the louse and give her a play-by-play of his reaction.

When Mel finally tracks the man down, the look on his face isn’t the reaction she was expecting: he’s dead. After the police arrive and see the incriminating cupcakes, Diane becomes their prime suspect. If she hopes to taste freedom again, Mel and Angie must make sure the real killer gets their just desserts…

Thanks for letting me visit! Happy Reading!

Jenn

Jenn McKinlay always writes the most adorable and fun stories. Her Cupcake Bakery series has been, by far, one of my favorites, and Caramel Crush added another fantastic layer to her clever writing. 

Mel and Angie are quite the pair. Their report with one another reminds me of my relationship with my friends, and it helps move the story along with an air of familiarity. Throw in to the mix a wedding, a breakup of epic slap in the face proportions, and a wonderful murder mystery that unfolds beautifully, and you've got yourself one heck of a fun ride! 

The story is well written, the characters are well-developed, and the mystery keeps you guessing until the very end. 

If you're looking for a new and fun series, pick this one up. I promise you'll fall in love. 

Rating: 5 stars 

Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have ONE copy of Caramel Crush to give away to one of my lucky readers! Please enter the rafflecopter below for your chance to win! 

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Cozy Mystery Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway: War and Peach (Georgia Peach #3) by Susan Furlong

The author of Rest in Peach serves up another bite of Southern charm in the latest Georgia Peach mystery.

Nola Mae Harper is too busy restocking the jars of preserves and chutney flying off the shelves of her shop, Peachy Keen, to keep up with all the gossip about the upcoming mayoral election, but she does know the debate is sure to be a real barn burner. 

Local farmer Clem Rogers claims he has a bombshell that could take small business owner Margie Price out of the running. But before Clem can reveal his juicy secret at the debate, his actual barn goes up in flames--with him inside of it. The town casts its vote against Margie, but Nola isn't convinced the hardworking woman is capable of murder. Now to clear Margie's name Nola will have to work fast under pressure, before Margie gets taken in by the fuzz... 

INCLUDES RECIPES!

Another visit to Cays Mill, another wonderful murder mystery to solve with Nola and all of her southern charm. I have truly enjoyed this series, and War and Peach just reminded me of why. It's a charming rendition of what a cozy mystery should be. It has all of the elements to make a rousing story, and manages to keep the characters relatable by keeping them familiar - in familiar positions, jobs, lives, etc., to those that we as readers live. Add to all of that the no-nonsense perfection of Ms. Nola Mae Harper and all of her sleuthing instincts, and you've got yourself one heck of a book! 

I love how well paced the Georgia Peach series is, and Ms. Furlong continues to do a superb job of keeping her stories fresh and exciting. This is a wonderful read for anyone who loves some good old-fashioned southern charm! 

Rating: 4.5 Stars 



Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have ONE copy of War and Peach to give away to one of my lucky readers! Just enter the rafflecopter below for your chance to win! :) 

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Cozy Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway: Bookman Dead Style (Dangerous Type #2) by Paige Shelton

A movie star is typecast as a killer in the second Dangerous Type Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of To Helvetica and Back.

It’s January, and the Star City Film Festival has taken the Utah ski resort town by storm. Movie stars are everywhere, carving fresh powder on the slopes and crossing the thresholds of Bygone Alley’s charming boutique shops—including The Rescued Word, where Clare Henry and her grandfather restore old typewriters and beloved books. When cinema’s hottest superhero, Matt Bane, enters their store to buy some personalized note cards, it’s hard not to be starstruck.

But when Clare sees the police leading Matt out of The Fountain hotel in handcuffs only a few hours later, she can’t believe her eyes. The affable actor is accused of killing his sister, but Clare’s convinced he’s wrong for that role. Now it’s open call for suspects as Clare tries to reel in the killer before another victim fades to black.






This series is just so much fun! I love the setting, the plot, the mystery, and of course, the characters! Clare is the ideal cozy heroine. There's something traditional about her that makes everything she says and does seem classic. 

I also thoroughly enjoyed the film noir-esque feel of this story. The Hollywood appeal. The actor. And the incredible sleuth that is portrayed by the very classic Clare. 

If you enjoy cozies with a little nod to timeless classic genres, this one is definitely for you!

Rating: 5 stars

Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have ONE copy of Bookman Dead Style to give away to one of my lucky readers! Just enter the rafflecopter below for your chance to win! 

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cozy Blog Tour: Review: No Cats Allowed (Cat in the Stacks #7) by Miranda James

In the latest mystery in the New York Times bestselling Cat in the Stacks series, librarian Charlie Harris and his Maine Coon cat Diesel must clear a friend when the evidence is stacked against her…
 
Springtime in Mississippi is abloom with beauty, but the library’s employees are too busy worrying to stop and smell the flowers. The new library director, Oscar Reilly, is a brash, unfriendly Yankee who’s on a mission to cut costs—and his first targets are the archive and the rare book collection.
 
As annoying as a long-overdue book, Reilly quickly raises the hackles of everyone on staff, including Charlie’s fiery friend Melba—whom Reilly wants to replace with someone younger. But his biggest offense is declaring all four-legged creatures banned from the stacks. 
 
With enemies aplenty, the suspect list is long when Reilly's body is discovered in the library. But things take a turn for the worse when a threatening e-mail throws suspicion on Melba.
 
Charlie is convinced that his friend is no murderer, especially when he catches sight of a menacing stranger lurking around the library. Now he and Diesel will have to read between the lines, before Melba is shelved under “G” for guilty. 

Original Release February 2016 

Another grand tale of Charlie and Diesel that keeps you guessing, introduces you to some quirky characters, and ties up nicely at the end. It's a perfectly quick and enjoyable read in this fun and unique series.

Rating: 4.5 stars


 

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