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Thursday, December 31, 2009

It’s Another New Year - Be Positive!

I’m not big into New Year’s resolutions for myself. I figure things like losing weight, exercising and being a better person are goals I should strive for all the time.

However I read an article recently that talked about the psychology of being positive, and it made some really great points that I’d like to repeat for myself and others.

The points are:

1. Refocus your perspective. Try to shift your thinking from negative to positive. Look for the good in life.

2. Be grateful. Remember and cherish the good times in your life.

3. Reconsider your pessimism of others. Try to look for the positive aspect in things or people you dislike.

4. Look for simple pleasures in small, everyday things.

5. Practice random acts of unexpected kindness to friends, neighbors and strangers.

So with those positive thoughts, I’d like to wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2010!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Done with “Mum’s the Word” by Kate Collins

There is a promo for this book that states: “Move over, Stephanie Plum. Abby Knight has come to town”. I don’t agree with that statement. To me Stephanie is more of a slapstick-like character than anything. She reminds me of Lucy Ricardo - always getting herself into crazy predicaments. I enjoy Stephanie’s exploits, but I don’t think Abby is like her.

This book is a little less cozy than many of the mysteries I’ve read. Not to say that’s bad. It’s quite a good read and there are many facets to the book that make it interesting. Abby’s quest for justice fuels the story, and we see the outrage she feels at those who commit crimes and get away with them.

Abby’s inability to deal with her mother’s vision for her life extends to her not being able to say ‘no’ to the hideous sculptures her mother makes and brings to Abby’s flower shop for her to sell.

And Abby’s co-workers Lottie and Grace are watching out for her welfare, whether it’s trying to set her up on a date or warning her to stop meddling. Grace is a Brit with a habit of spouting Shakespeare at all the appropriate moments. Abby sometimes thinks they are inappropriate moments!

Rounding out the cast of characters, there’s Marco, the man with the steel abs and a glint of gold in his eyes. Plus Nikki, Abby’s best friend and flighty roommate; and Simon, Nikki’s cat, who loves to play with rubber bands and straws.

I enjoyed this book. You can buy it here:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hot on the Trail

Re: “Mum’s the Word” by Kate Collins

Abby is investigating her case about the man in the black SUV who hit her car and then just drove off. In doing so, she becomes friends with the good looking new owner of a bar and grill down the street from her flower shop. The owner’s name is Marco Salvare. He is a former cop and dabbles in PI work along with running his new place.

Marco discourages Abby’s investigation at every turn, telling her to keep her nose out of things and let the police handle it. But like a good female-sleuth, she of course ignores his advice. He finds himself helping her against his better judgement because he is attracted to her and doesn’t want her to get hurt.

One evening they are hot on the trail of the black SUV driver. This leads them to the man’s uncle’s home and we find out he is quite rich and powerful. He has security lights and guard dogs. Rottweilers, in fact. Marco jokes that if the rottweilers find them, he will be singing soprano.

Funny they should mention rottweilers. Our back neighbor has two of them. The dogs are kept in the house most of the time. Our yard is fully fenced so the dogs will never get into our yard. Even so, I try not to be outside in our far backyard when the dogs are out because I’m not sure how territorial they will be. Will they consider our yard to be their yard? I don’t want to find out!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Black Sheep of the Family

Re: “Mum’s the Word” by Kate Collins

Abby feels she is the black sheep of the Knight family. Her mother wanted three things from her children: they should marry well, they should become doctors or lawyers and they should join a country club. Abby’s brothers have done all of these things. Abby has done none of them.

Abby says if it had been left to her, her mother would be totally unfulfilled. Abby hates country clubs, she flunked out of law school after her first year and her fiance backed out of their wedding. And grandchildren? Forget about it!

When Abby announced her intention to become the owner of a flower shop, her mother couldn’t understand why. She told Abby to resume her law studies. She said: ‘Just bring the dean a plate of brownies and he’ll let you back into law school’. Abby says if she brought the dean an entire brownie company, she couldn’t get back in!

Besides, Abby doesn’t want to be a lawyer, she wants to be a florist. Thus she will disappoint her mother yet again.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

“Mum’s the Word” by Kate Collins

I have the post-blizzard blues. The days are short. It’s very cloudy. Snow is piled high. When I took art classes, my instructor called me the ‘color person’ of the class. I love color and I used it in my drawings and paintings. So looking out the window to see white all around does not make me happy.

Instead of reading a holiday-themed book like I planned to do, I thought I’d switch gears and re-read the first book in the Flower Shop mystery series written by Kate Collins. The book is set in the hot summer and the female-sleuth, Abby Knight, owns a flower shop. A perfect escape for this time of year!

When I started this blog, I reading book three in the series “Dearly Depotted”. One of my goals in life is to be organized, so I thought I’d re-read and blog about book one in the series. It’s called “Mum’s the Word”.

We use ‘mum’ from time to time to indicate silence. In this case, it’s the police who are ‘keeping mum’ when it comes to answering Abby’s questions about the man in the black SUV who hit her car and drove off. There was a murder the same day, at about the same time that Abby’s car got hit, and she thinks there is a tie-in between the two events.

One thing Abby can’t keep ‘mum’ about is injustice. Mostly because her father was on the police force. Her co-worker Lottie has a cousin named Pearl who is being abused by her husband. Lottie asks Abby to provide Pearl with some legal advice, even though Abby flunked out of law school. Abby obliges and encourages Pearl to leave her husband. Then Abby starts having run-ins with Pearl’s nasty and abusive husband. No ‘mum’s the word’ for Abby!



(photo courtesy Stock.xchng)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Let it Snow - Please NO!

We had a blizzard yesterday. Over 15 inches of snow fell. There was no mail, no school. Government offices were shut down and many businesses and colleges were closed. City buses were not running.

Many people had no power. One friend said her house got down to 56 degrees. They were without electricity or heat for almost 12 hours. She spent the day in bed, under her down comforter.

Mid-morning we noticed two people trying to dig their car out of the snow. They had gotten stuck on our street. The snow plows didn't come to plow our street until late afternoon. We realized we could not go anywhere, even if we wanted to. It was a strange feeling.

We were fine. We had heat and electricity, and we spent the day watching DVDs of old TV shows and a holiday movie. When we weren't out shoveling and snow-blowing the driveway, that is. I actually enjoyed shoveling as strange as it sounds - the air was fresh, it wasn't too cold and the exercise felt good.

Many neighborhood kids took advantage of the snow day and were out on their sleds at the city park across the street.

So today life is slowly getting back to normal.

Here are a few pictures I took at our home:

Our back yard:


Snow piled on our deck railing:


Front yard: Snow piled on our spruce tree and on top of our lamp post:


Another front yard picture:


When we hear the song, "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow", I think we'll sing "Let It Melt, Let It Melt, Let It Melt" instead!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Done With “Murder Takes the Cake” by Gayle Trent

This is a comfortable, cozy mystery. In fact I got comfortable and cozy on the couch and finished reading it yesterday! In a nice surprise, the culprit was not who I thought it would be.

Author Gayle Trent makes Daphne into a very real, likeable character. Now I enjoy the Stephanie Plum character, but she isn’t real to me. She’s too much like a made up, story book character. Daphne isn’t. I feel like she could be my friend and I’m participating in her life, or reading HER diary!

We see into the business side of Daphne’s life and how she has to help her customers decide on the kind of cake they want. Plus there is a lot of information on baking and decorating cakes, and one recipe for Black Cat Cupcakes. Makes me want to stop over at our local bakery!

Here are some pictures I took of a Halloween cake we got a couple of years ago at that bakery. Isn’t it cute? It was good too! (The pumpkin and small stuffed cat are ours). Maybe Daphne could make a cake like this one!





You can buy the book here:

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Tell-Tale Diary

Re: “Murder Takes the Cake” by Gayle Trent

Not too long after Yodel’s death, Daphne receives a call from Yodel’s daughter Annabelle. Annabelle asks if Daphne could go back to her mom’s house and look for a diary. Annabelle says it’s a tell-all of the happenings in Brea Ridge, and feels that her mother might have been killed for it. Daphne reluctantly agrees since Annabelle is out of town.

Daphne’s friend Ben says the diary would make Brea Ridge seem like the infamous soap opera Peyton Place.



Daphne finds the diary and brings it home. She sneaks a peak at it and finds some very juicy gossip. Also some disturbing information about her own family. When Daphne approaches her Uncle Hal about the information, he tells her to leave it alone. Daphne finds she can’t.

How many of us have skeletons in our family closet? I know I have a few that I wish I didn’t know about!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Clever Acronyms

Re: “Murder Takes the Cake” by Gayle Trent

An acronym is a word formed from the first letters of another series of words or phrases. I think the best way to learn about acronyms is by seeing examples.

Daphne and her girlfriends have developed their own acronyms for men. HAG refers to Hot Available Guy. HUG refers to Hot Unavailable Guy. HAG is not too flattering, but Daphne and her friends know what this means. (LOL - Laughing Out Loud)

I came up with an acronym for YODEL: Yucky Odious Dreadful Evil Lady. She wasn’t well liked by the folks of Brea Ridge, Virginia!

My silly hubby came up with a couple more:
KISS - Kind Irresistible Sexy Single
NOVEL - Next Official Victim Ends Life
 
Right now Daphne has no hot guy in her life. But she has hooked up with her childhood friend Ben Jacobs, who now works as a reporter for the local Brea Ridge Chronicle newspaper. As they start to spend time together again, she wonders whether he is a HAG or a HUG.

Friday, December 4, 2009

“Murder Takes the Cake” by Gayle Trent

This book introduces us to female-sleuth Daphne Martin. She is divorced, age 40 and has just returned to her home town of Brea Ridge in southwest Virginia. She has bought a home and dreams of starting her own cake decorating business.

Daphne’s first customer is Yodel Watson. Yodel’s parents wanted to be famous singers, so they named their daughters Melody, Harmony and Yodel, and their son Guitar. And Yodel named her parrot Banjo. But she broke with the tradition (a good thing, I think) when she named her daughter Annabelle. (Daphne herself is named after author Daphne du Maurier).

Yodel is extremely picky, so Daphne is on her third cake and desperately hopes Yodel will like it. Unfortunately Yodel is dead as Daphne discovers when she arrives to deliver the cake. She summons the police and tells them “I just brought the cake”. Later the police discover that Yodel was poisoned. Now Daphne is finding that she has to convince many of the townsfolk that her cake was not the cause of Yodel’s death!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Winner in the Book Giveaway Drawing



We have a winner in the "Murder Takes the Cake" book giveaway drawing. One name was randomly chosen, and it is: Bev from Wisconsin.

Congrats to Bev and thanks to all who entered. I hope to have another book giveaway sometime.

And a special thanks again to Gayle Trent for donating the book and her time.

Done with “On What Grounds” by Cleo Coyle

There are a lot of interesting things going on in this book. Family issues, physical attraction, emotional entanglements and business concerns. Info about storing, roasting and brewing coffee. Clare’s ability to read coffee grounds, an art called tasseography and one that she learned from her grandmother. Recipes. And last, but not least, a mystery to solve.

Clare does solve the mystery of what happened to Anabelle and does so in a direct, caring and sometimes comical way. What happens to her in a New York City gay bar is quite amusing.

I’d suggest you grab yourself a cup of coffee and sit down to enjoy a very well written book.

You can get it here:

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Village Blend coffeehouse

Re: "On What Grounds" by Cleo Coyle

The Village Blend coffeehouse is fictional, but darned if author Cleo Coyle doesn’t make you believe it’s real. It’s set in the middle of Greenwich Village and has been a fixture of the neighborhood since 1895. The only store sign displayed is an old, antique brass sign which simply says: “Fresh Roasted Coffee Served Daily”.


Many famous and infamous folks from all walks of life have visited the Blend for a savory cup of coffee over the years. Artists, musicians, authors, poets, actors, painters and politicians to name a few. Along with local workers in office buildings and hospitals, and the average Jane and Joe on the street.

I think author Coyle’s website CoffeeHouseMystery.com is a real treat. It’s a virtual Village Blend. There is a ton of information on coffee to be found on the site, plus recipes and other fun tidbits. You could easily spend an hour or more browsing around. I certainly have!

(Photo courtesy istockphoto.com)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

“On What Grounds” by Cleo Coyle

This book starts out with a quote from the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”. I remember a college English professor of mine reciting that quotation with a look of rapture on his face. He often spoke about that poem, but oddly enough never made us read it. And to this day I still haven’t read it.

“On What Grounds” is the first book in the Coffeehouse mystery series featuring female-sleuth Clare Cosi. Clare is 39, divorced and living in New Jersey while raising her daughter Joy. Clare supports herself by doing several odd jobs, one of which involves writing a small column in the local newspaper called “In the Kitchen with Clare”.

But now her 19-year-old daughter has just gone off to college in Manhattan and Clare finds herself suffering from empty-nest syndrome. So when Clare receives a call from her former boss and mother-in-law Madame, she answers and decides to relocate to Manhattan to manage Madame’s coffeehouse, The Village Blend.

Well, actually to RETURN as manager - Clare had managed the coffeehouse for 10 years before settling in New Jersey to raise Joy. Her other reason for leaving is named Matteo Allegro - Clare’s ex-husband, and Madame’s son.

The book opens with Clare finding her young employee Anabelle at the bottom of the Village Blend’s stairs. Anabelle is still alive, but just barely. The police have investigated and ruled the mishap an accident, but Clare doesn’t believe it. Anabelle is a dancer and Clare doesn’t think her so clumsy as to have fallen down the stairs. She thinks Anabelle was pushed and is determined to find out the truth.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Giveaway


I have a new, autographed paperback copy of “Murder Takes the Cake” written by Gayle Trent, the first in her Daphne Martin cake decorating mystery series. Ms. Trent graciously offered to send me a copy so that my blog readers would have a chance to win it.

For more information on the series, go to her website www.gayletrent.com.

Since spammers can obtain email addresses on blog comments, to win this book send me a private email at freekb50@yahoo.com with your name and address. If you wish, you could include the name of your favorite mystery series or your favorite female-sleuth. This for my curiosity only. It is optional and is not required to win the book.

I’ll choose the winner randomly on Tuesday, December 1.

Thanks for participating and good luck!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Guest Blog by Author Gayle Trent

I am very pleased to have my first guest blog post by author Gayle Trent. Ms. Trent writes a mystery series featuring female-sleuth and cake decorator Daphne Martin. There are two books in the series set in a small Virginia town. Book number two is called “Dead Pan” and it was released earlier this month by Bell Bridge Books.

In “Dead Pan”, several people fall ill at a company Christmas party. When one of the victims dies, police intensify their search for the culprit, including the cake Daphne made for the occasion.

This should be an interesting series for me as my aunt used to bake and decorate cakes for special occasions. So please stay tuned to this blog for more info about Daphne.

In the meantime, enjoy the following post:

******

Thorough Investigations
 
A mystery writer has to be thorough, right? I’ve often stopped what I was writing to call a police officer to make sure I had the protocol and procedures down correctly. You can’t come across to your readers like you don’t know what you’re doing. Especially when you don’t.
 
My daughter’s Spanish teacher wanted a copy of the first book in my Daphne Martin Cake Decorating Mystery Series, Murder Takes the Cake. I decided to be really clever and translate my inscription into Spanish. I’ve never had a Spanish class, other than what I’ve gleaned from Dora the Explorer—and that was several years ago, but how hard could it be? I did a search for online Spanish translations, entered my inscription in English and then copied it verbatim from the Spanish I was given.
 
The next day when I picked up my daughter from school, I asked, “Did your teacher like her book?”
 
“Yeah.”
 
“How about the inscription?”
 
“Weeeeell….”
 
 I knew from the drawn-out “well” that something wasn’t quite right.
 
“She asked me if you speak Spanish,” my daughter continued. “And I said, ‘no, she Googled it.’”
 
My attempt at cleverness was leaving me with a feeling of dread. “What did it say?”
 
“She said it said, ‘Relax and enjoy this mountain of . . . .’ something. She mumbled that last word, and I didn’t understand it.”
 
My eyes nearly popped out, and then I started laughing. I bent over the steering wheel laughing. My daughter, son and I all laughed until we cried.
 
An inscription that had begun as “wishing you lots of sweet surprises” had morphed into “relax and enjoy this mountain of ?”? Mountain of what? That plagues me still. My older brother has been quick to provide possibilities (none of which I can print here), and I’m afraid he might be right since the teacher “mumbled that last word.”
 
I e-mailed the teacher, apologized and told her what the inscription was supposed to say. I offered to send her a signed bookplate she could place over her so proudly-written Spanish inscription. She declined. She did, however, tell me later that she loved the book. That was some consolation.
 
The moral of this story is not to let your investigating slide. You might concede to “not sweat the small stuff;” but if you’re going to plaster the “small stuff” in a book to be immortalized and come back to haunt you for the rest of your life (and your children’s lives), you’d better thoroughly investigate the “small stuff.” And when you don’t know something, don’t try to pretend you do.


******

Interesting post! I remember reading some funny lost-in-translation phrases. Thanks again Gayle!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Done with “The Chocolate Cat Caper” by JoAnna Carl

Lee puts two and two together to figure out who killed Clementine Ripley. Along the way there is another dead body. It’s ruled a suicide, but Lee wonders if it wasn’t murder? Even the cat Yonkers had a hand, or should I say paw, in helping to solve the mystery.

And if that isn’t enough, a budding romance between Lee and local hunk Joe Woodyard develops leading to some long kisses and hopes for a continued relationship.

Author JoAnna Carl includes a lot of factual information on chocolate in this book. For example, you can read about the difference between making truffles and bonbons. She also includes several pages on chocolate trivia, which she calls “Chocolate Chat”. There are chats on the origins of chocolate, it’s health benefits, types of chocolate, how chocolate is used for romance and chocolate crimes.

There is even a chocolate quiz at the end of the book. For example, you can find out how many pounds of chocolate Americans eat per person per year. (Hint: it’s in the double-figures).

You can buy the book here:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lee’s Malapropish Tongue

Re: The Chocolate Cat Caper by JoAnna Carl

Lee McKinney has a problem. She has what she calls a ‘twisted tongue’. For example, she says things like:

‘financial sentiment’ (for financial settlement)
‘none of my busybody’ (for none of my business)
‘cardboard suspender’ (for cardboard dispenser)

The problem is very embarrassing and frustrating for Lee, although I bet author JoAnna Carl had some fun coming up with the phrases.

Lee likens the problem to a malaprop, which I recall learning about in my high school English class. Since that was many years ago, I thought I’d refresh my memory by going out to Wikipedia to look it up.

There is a character named Mrs. Malaprop in a play from Sheridan called “The Rivals”. She speaks this way, and so the term 'malaprop' was named for her. Here is one example from the play: "...she's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of Nile." (i.e. alligator; Act III Scene III Line 195).

A malaprop means to substitute one word for a similar sounding word. The result is a non-sensical, and somewhat comic, phrase. My favorite one of Lee’s is ‘armadillo truffles’ (for amaretto truffles)!

In fact, on her website www.joannacarl.com,
Ms. Carl says that Lee is a 'direct descendant of Mrs. Malaprop'.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Clem the Ripper

Re: The Chocolate Cat Caper by JoAnna Carl

It’s not nice to speak ill of the dead, but there were many folks that did NOT like prominent defense attorney Clementine Ripley, AKA The Ripper. Her prowess at keeping many seemingly guilty parties out of jail had brought her much fame, but few friends. Even those who worked for her felt she had no heart.

Lee’s kind Aunt Nettie certainly did not like Ms. Ripley. Lee’s Uncle Phil was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver: a repeat drunk driver who was able to get his license back because Ms. Ripley was his defense attorney.

It’s unfortunate that Ms. Ripley died while eating a TenHuis Amaretto truffle. Amaretto is a sweet almond-flavored liqueur. Evidently cyanide is found (in small amounts) in almonds, so someone comes to the conclusion that Ms. Ripley was poisoned because they smell almonds by her body. Poisoned by one of Aunt Nettie’s chocolates nonetheless.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Texas vs. Michigan

Re: The Chocolate Cat Caper by JoAnna Carl

Texas vs. Michigan sounds like a college sporting event, but here it refers to Lee McKinney’s comparison of the places she’s lived.

In Texas, Lee was married to an older, wealthy attorney who preferred she have big hair and bright red lips. Now that she’s divorced and back in Michigan, she prefers to tone down the glamour and pull her hair back with a barrette. And wear medium pink lipstick.

It’s hot in Texas and Lee says air conditioning is a must. It’s everywhere: houses, cars, office buildings, industrial plants, buses, trucks and even tractors. Not so much in Warner Pier, Michigan. Most people, including Lee’s Aunt Nettie, don’t have air conditioning in their homes.

Then there’s the matter of the accent. Lee says that to a Texan, the Michigan ‘yeah’ sounds a lot like the Dutch ‘ya’. I’m from Wisconsin, which is not too far from Michigan. In our travels across the U.S., I can tell you that sometimes people can’t understand what I’m saying due to my ‘accent’.

My aunt and uncle, who are also from Wisconsin, moved to Oklahoma many years ago and picked up an accent which I think is a lot like a Texas twang. Just don’t tell them that. They might be offended!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

“The Chocolate Cat Caper” by JoAnna Carl

This is the first book in the Chocoholic mystery series featuring female-sleuth Lee McKinney. Lee is back in Warner Pier, the small Michigan resort town where she grew up, after serving a stint as a ‘trophy wife’ to a rich Texan. After Lee’s divorce, her aunt Jeannette TenHuis (known as Aunt Nettie) offers her a place to stay and a job working as a bookkeeper for the family business TenHuis Chocolade.

Lee is happy to be back and is taking advantage of this time to study for the CPA exam. She also enjoys the special perk allowed to each employee: two free chocolates each working day. Mmm, sounds good to me!

The opening chapters find Lee and her Aunt Nettie preparing to deliver a special order of handmade chocolate truffles and bonbons to high-powered attorney Clementine Ripley (AKA The Ripper). Ms. Ripley has a summer home in Warner Pier and is entertaining several guests for a charity fund-raiser.

Ms. Ripley has a purebred cat, and so Aunt Nettie has made several chocolates in the shape of a cat by using a special mold she previously ordered from the Netherlands. She’s hand-detailed the chocolates so they look like Ms. Ripley’s Birman male cat named Yonkers, which is short for Champion Myanmar Chocolate Yonkers. Lee thinks the cat looks like a Siamese cat with long hair.

Lee delivers the chocolates to Ms. Ripley’s home, and after returning to TenHuis Chocolade, is asked to help the local caterer do some serving at the party that same evening. Lee gladly accepts as she wants to see the inside of the home. She also needs the extra money as the divorce left her practically penniless.

Once there, Lee is put to work at the bar. The cat gets out of the room it was shut into and scampers across the bar. Lee takes it back and when she returns, she happens upon a shocking scene: Ms. Ripley has died while eating a Amaretto truffle from TenHuis Chocolade.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Old Celtic Prayer

On a personal note, I would like to offer up this old celtic prayer I found someplace, I'm not sure where.

It's for my father, who passed away a year ago. He was a veteran of WWII so I think it's fitting to post this on Veteran's Day and say a special thanks to all veterans, including my dad.

"You are above me O God,
You are beneath,
You are in the air,
You are in the earth,
You are beside me,
You are within.
Kindle within me a love for you in all things."

I miss you, Dad.

(Artwork of Celtic Cross courtesy Dover Publications)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why Female-Sleuths?

Why not Male-Sleuths too? Well, first and foremost - I’m a girl. When I started reading for fun as a teenager, I wanted to read about things that girls like myself were doing.

One day my mom was shopping at our local department store and I wandered over to the book section. There were several Nancy Drew books for sale and I persuaded Mom to buy me “The Secret in the Old Attic” - the 1944 version in yellow hardcover. I was hooked! To date, that is one of my favorite Nancy Drew books.

(I also saw the blue hardcover Hardy Boys books but didn’t get any. I still haven’t read any Hardy Boys yet. Hope to someday.)

Plus I’m drawn to the cozy, or traditional mysteries. The publishers are marketing these books to women and I’ve gotta say, I’m right there. Amazon.com sure has me pegged as they have tons of recommendations that are right up my alley.

I like that many of these mysteries feature women who have chosen many different career-paths, or who are interested in so many different kinds of hobbies. The lists are endless.

Plus these ladies are typically nice, or funny or interesting in someway. They are wives, moms, daughters, sisters, aunts and nieces. They have personalities and feelings that I can relate to.

Several years ago I was really into Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware child psychologist series. I thought the books were good and extremely well written, but the graphic descriptions of violence really bothered me. Sadly, I stopped reading him.

In general I’m not against reading about male-sleuths and I imagine there are several good ones out there. Feel free to leave a comment if you have some you’d like to recommend.

It’s just that there are many, many female-sleuths out there. I’d like to read about them all someday!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Done with “Catering to Nobody” by Diane Mott Davidson

Intense - that’s the impression I got from most of this book and the characters in it. Except for the police detective Tom Schulz - the one person I would expect to be the most intense. He seemed more laid back and pleasant than the other characters. But I suppose doing that kind of work for a living, you build up a layer of thick skin to become oblivious to the horror of it all. I imagine it’s the same for those folks that work in hospitals and the ER.

I like the way that author Davidson uses the title of the book to mean a couple of different things. One, in that Goldy’s business was shut down so she couldn’t cater food to anybody. Two, she mentions her son doesn’t cater to anybody either. Meaning that they are their own people and they aren’t beholden to what others say or think they should do.

You can buy the book here:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Another Book Set During October and Halloween

Re: “Catering to Nobody” by Diane Mott Davidson

I didn’t realize when I randomly picked this book off my bookshelf that I’d be reading a book set during this time of year. Kind of a nice surprise, and it makes it easier to get into the events of the book since the season I’m in matches the one in the book.

Goldy is preparing for her fitness club’s Halloween party and also is spending time making her 11-year old son’s costume. He is into Dungeons and Dragons (D & D), something I’ve heard of but never participated in. So Goldy decides to make Dungeon Bars for a D & D party he is having with a friend. The recipe is included in the book and it sounds basically like oatmeal raisin cookie bars.

Her son is going to the Halloween party too, dressed as a lich. This is a character from D & D, and Goldy gets chills running up and down her spine when she reads that the lich specializes in vengeful activity against those who are wicked and evil. It will stop only when the evil one is dead. The lich’s face is like a skull.

Goldy is definitely worrying about her son’s involvement in this game.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blue Skies

Re: “Catering to Nobody” by Diane Mott Davidson

I’m not typically a fan of long, flowery descriptions of things. For me a little goes a long way.

But this particular description author Davidson wrote caught my eye: “Overhead the sky was a deep periwinkle blue, as if a celestial housecleaner had spilled a bottle of bluing agent to the four corners of the earth”.

The mention of a housecleaner was made because at this point in the book, Goldy has to do some housecleaning to make ends meet since her business has been shut down.

I personally don’t have any experience with bluing agents but I have vacationed in the high mountains of California, Colorado and New Mexico, and I can attest to how blue the sky is on a clear day. (Goldy lives right outside of Denver Colorado, in the Rocky Mountains). I wonder if it’s because you are way up high in elevation and as such, are much closer to the sky? Or maybe one’s perception of color changes a bit because the air is thinner? Perhaps it’s a science-thing dealing with light refraction or reflection - I never was very good in science.

These are a couple of pictures from a trip we took to Yosemite National Park that I hope will show off the blue sky.



Saturday, October 24, 2009

“Catering to Nobody” by Diane Mott Davidson

This is the first book in the Goldy catering series. It’s been a very long time since I’ve read this so it’s a nice re-introduction to the series.

Goldy lives in Aspen Meadow Colorado and is a divorced mom of a young boy named Arch. Her birth name is Gertrude Bear and she uses her nick-name of Goldy because she has blond hair. She has a degree in psychology, but hasn’t found a way to pay the bills with it. Since she’s a good cook, she started a catering business.

The name of her business is a play on her own name, plus the story of Goldilocks and the 3 bears. It’s called “Goldilocks Catering, Where Everything is Just Right!” (Exclamation point is included).

This book starts out with Goldy catering at a wake for a deceased teacher - one of son Arch’s teachers in fact. Unfortunately Goldy’s ex-husband, John Richard Korman is there too with his new girlfriend. His initials are JRK - which Goldy thinks sums up his personality quite well. The Jerk. He was abusive to her during their marriage.

Goldy’s ex-in-laws are also there and during the wake, her ex-father-in-law becomes ill. Turns out someone has put rat poison in his coffee. Now Goldy’s livelihood is in danger because the authorities have to shut her business down while they investigate.

But there might be a silver lining - Goldy feels an immediate attraction to the chief police investigator, Tom Schulz.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Done with “Trick or Treat Murder” by Leslie Meier

The Halloween party at the old Hallett House goes quite well, except Lucy accidentally leaves her baby’s diaper bag at the place. When she gets home she discovers she has no diapers and even though it’s late, she decides to go and get the bag. When she arrives at the old mansion, it’s very dark and everyone has left to go home or on to other parties.


(Photo courtesy Photobucket.com)

Lucy feels it’s the very image of a spooky haunted house. But she bravely grabs her flashlight, tries the door (it’s open) and goes in to retrieve the diaper bag. She hears several noises that frighten her but she thinks it is mice and so keeps on going.

I don’t think I’d have the courage to do that, especially on Halloween eve with an arsonist on the loose! She debates with herself about going to the store to buy diapers - I think I would have done that instead.

Lucy does play a pivotal role in capturing the criminal. I like the way the Halloween theme was used in the book. There was a lot of emphasis given to Lucy caring for her baby and of her trying to find the time to do everything she needs to do in her busy life. I felt there could have been more emphasis on the mystery part of the story.

You can buy the book here:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pumpkin Carving

Re: “Trick or Treat Murder” by Leslie Meier

Even though Lucy has had her car vandalized, received a threatening phone call and a warning note, she decides she is going to catch the arsonist before he has a chance to hurt anyone else. Despite the fact that her husband and the police don’t want her to get involved, she continues on her quest.

In the meantime her kids are carving the family pumpkin. Lucy has just seen a pumpkin carving demonstration where the final outcome was quite artistic. Pumpkins were carved like pieces of fine porcelain. Some had spiders carved in the sides. The person giving the demonstration urged people to use their creativity.



(Photo courtesy BHG.com)

So Lucy urges her kids to do something different, but they decide they want to stick with triangles for the eyes and the nose and a large toothy grin. Come to think of it, that’s how my Dad used to carve pumpkins when I was a kid!



(Photo courtesy iStockPhoto.com)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Getting in the Halloween Spirit

Re: “Trick or Treat Murder” by Leslie Meier

The townspeople of Tinker’s Cove are getting geared up for the upcoming Halloween party. The high school’s art students are carving pumpkins and making decorations. Games are being organized, and the football boosters are lending their popcorn machine for the event.

And one woman is making her ‘famous’ black punch and she’s going to freeze gummy worms in an ice ring and put it in the punch. I don’t think I want that recipe!

Getting off topic: today I did some shopping at a major retailer. Saw a lot of Halloween stuff but also saw Christmas stuff too! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I really don’t understand why we need to have Christmas stuff out before Halloween. But then again, every year like clockwork I get the J.C. Penney Fall & Winter catalog on my birthday - which is in JUNE!

Friday, October 9, 2009

“Trick or Treat Murder” by Leslie Meier

Well it’s October and Halloween is coming up. I really enjoy this time of year. Leaves changing color, cooler temps, apples & squash. That’s for me!

Thought I would re-read “Trick or Treat Murder” by Leslie Meier, featuring female-sleuth Lucy Stone. I don’t connect very well with Lucy herself, but I like the way that author Meier incorporates holiday themes into her books. This book occurs during October prior to Halloween.

Lucy lives in a small town in Maine called Tinker’s Cove. There have been a series of fires lately to several old buildings and each one has been explained away naturally. But the latest fire happens to catch the resident of a summer home visiting her cottage, the oldest house in Tinker’s Cove. She dies in the fire and the police rule it arson and murder.

Lucy is afraid that her house might be a target as it was built in the 1850’s. She has a hunch the fires are somehow connected and decides she is going to find out who is setting the fires.

But first she has promised to bake 12 dozen cupcakes for a Halloween party her friend Sue is organizing for the whole town in the historic old Hallett House. Doing the math, that’s 144 cupcakes!

If she needs any help, here is a recipe I found on Pillsbury.com for Halloween cupcakes:




Halloween Cupcake Trio

Turn purchased or cake-mix cupcakes into fantastic and delicious Halloween fare in just a few easy steps.

Time: 1 Hr
Makes: 24 cupcakes


INGREDIENTS:
Cupcakes:
1 container (16 oz) vanilla frosting
1/4 teaspoon orange concentrated paste food color
24 unfrosted cupcakes (purchased or baked from a mix)

Spider Webs:
1 tube (0.68 oz) black decorating gel (not food color)
8 clean plastic spider finger rings

Eyeballs:
2 tablespoons vanilla frosting (from 16-oz container)
8 candy-coated chocolate pieces
1 tube (0.68 oz) black decorating gel (not food color)
1 tube (0.68 oz) red decorating gel (not food color)

Graves:
1 tube (0.68 oz) black decorating gel (not food color)
8 oval creme-filled peanut butter sandwich cookies
1/4 cup chocolate cookie crumbs
8 candy pumpkins

DIRECTIONS:

1. Place 3 tablespoons of the frosting in small bowl; set aside. Stir orange food color into remaining frosting in container until well blended and no streaks remain. Frost cupcakes.

2. To make Spider Web Cupcakes, use black decorating gel to draw spiral covering on top of each frosted cupcake. Drag toothpick through spiral from center out, creating a web. Press 1 spider ring onto each "web."

3. To make Eyeball Cupcakes, drop 1/2 teaspoon vanilla frosting from small bowl onto each frosted cupcake. Lightly press 1 candy-coated chocolate piece in center of each. Use black decorating gel for pupil and red decorating gel to draw red squiggly veins radiating around edge of white frosting.

4. To make Grave Cupcakes, write "epitaphs" on one end of each cookie using black decorating gel. Press cookies into cupcakes to form "gravestones." Sprinkle cookie crumbs around each "gravestone"; add candy pumpkin to one side.

(Source: www.pillsbury.com)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Done with “The Mystery of the Fire Dragon” by Carolyn Keene

Finding Chi Che Soong leads the detectives to Hong Kong where Mr. Drew has a case and Nancy’s special friend, Ned Nickerson, is a college exchange student. He can speak a little of the Cantonese language and knows his way around so he can show them the sites of the city. Of course Bess and George come along. George even gets to impersonate Chi Che as she looks very similar to the missing girl.

The version of the book I have was written in 1961 and has some interesting trivia about Hong Kong. At that time, Hong Kong was a British colony but in 1997 sovereignty was transfered to China. According to Wikipedia, the official name is: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. Hong Kong has a high degree of autonomy from China.

This is a good book in the Nancy Drew series. You can buy it here:

Saturday, October 3, 2009

"The Mystery of the Fire Dragon" by Carolyn Keene

I haven’t read a Nancy Drew book for awhile. I started re-reading the classic series over a year ago and have slowed way down. My favorites are in the first 30 or so books. (I really like The Secret in the Old Attic).

The Mystery of the Fire Dragon is book number 38. This book finds Nancy and her female-sleuth chums Bess Marvin and George Fayne going to New York City to visit Nancy’s Aunt Eloise Drew. They are immediately involved in a mystery surrounding the disappearance of Aunt Eloise’s young Chinese neighbor, Chi Che Soong. Miss Soong lives next door with her elderly grandfather. Grandpa Soong, as he likes to be called, is writing a book about ancient Chinese archaeology.

Nancy notices some stationery in Grandpa Soong’s apartment. There is a hand-painted dragon on one of the corners of the paper. He explains that dragons are sacred symbols of ancient China. Legend says they are gods of thunder and that clouds are a dragon’s breath. They bring life-giving rain so the rice crops will grow and sustain the people.

Wikipedia says that Chinese dragons are portrayed as long, scaly, serpentine creatures with four legs. Chinese dragons traditionally symbolize potent powers and have control over water, rainfall and floods. In contrast, European dragons are considered to be evil.

Very interesting!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Take the Poll Regarding Books in a Series

Have you found yourself enjoying the first book in a series and decide to continue on with it, only to find that later books are just 'so-so'? That you eagerly await the release of the next book (maybe even write the date on your calendar), and to your disappointment, find the series is heading south?

Do you say 'enough is enough' and move on? Or do you feel a need to see the series through to the 'bitter' end?

I'm at the point of deciding what to do with a couple of my favorite series. I have decided that I will keep reading them, but I will not buy the books new. I'll see if my local library has them or I will scrounge around eBay to see if I can pick up a cheaper copy.

I realize the authors are trying to make a living - and yes, it's very easy to criticize since I've never written a book, much less several books - but if you find your sales going down, maybe you should read some reviews and comments about your latest book. If your readers aren't happy, then go back and re-read your first book and maybe you can recapture some of the magic you made for your readers in creating these characters.

What are your thoughts? Please vote in my poll. Comments are also welcome.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Done with “Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder” by Joanne Fluke

This is a likable, entertaining start to the Hannah Swensen cozy mystery series. We are introduced to her mother Delores, sister Andrea, brother-in-law Bill and little niece Tracey. We also meet Hannah’s partner in The Cookie Jar Lisa, and several other folks from the small town of Lake Eden, Minnesota. Plus her one-eyed tomcat Moishe gets some attention in this book too.

Hannah’s potential love interests, Norman Rhodes and Mike Kingston, are introduced here also. Toward the end of the book, Hannah’s mother Delores (who is pressuring Hannah to get married at the ‘old’ age of 29) happily claims that Hannah will be asked out by both men. Hannah doesn’t think so, but sure enough, she winds up with two dates. And so starts that saga and ten books later, nothing has changed.

Plus we get seven cookie recipes in this book: Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies, Regency Ginger Crisps, Pecan Chews, Black and Whites, Chocolate-Covered Cherry Delights, Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies and Lovely Lemon Bar Cookies (because the murderer is going to end up behind bars!).

Yummy!

You can buy the book here:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hannah Wins Big!

Re: “Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder” by Joanne Fluke

As part of her sleuthing activities, Hannah visits the local casino to find out the name of a bouncer that the late Ron LaSalle had an altercation with. Lisa, Hannah’s partner at The Cookie Jar, is with Hannah and convinces her to try her hand at the slot machines. Hannah is wondering what people see in them, when to her amazement a siren screams, lights flash and dozens of coins tumble out of her machine.

She’s a winner! $1,942 to be exact! Wish I had that kind of luck!

What has made this series a winner for me is the relationship Hannah has with her family. Plus she’s one smart cookie - she was close to getting her doctorate degree when her sister asked Hannah to come home and help settle their father’s estate. That’s when Hannah decided to stay in Lake Eden and open her bakery, The Cookie Jar.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

It’s Not as Easy as it Looks

Re: “Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder” by Joanne Fluke

Hannah realizes that trying to solve the murder of Ron LaSalle is not as easy as they make it look in the movies. She is asked by the police detective working on the case (who just happens to be her brother-in-law) to help him do some legwork.

He feels that Hannah would be able to track down the lipstick clue better than he would. She’s not so sure about that as she’s not really the type to wear much makeup. And she’s definitely not the glamour girl type - she thinks she’s more the Katharine Hepburn type.

Kate always made it look easy in the movies, whether she was playing a scatterbrained heiress in "Bringing Up Baby", a champion golfer in "Pat and Mike" or the head of a TV research department in "Desk Set". I think she is great to watch in "Holiday", "Woman of the Year" and "The Philadelphia Story".

Flixster - Share Movies


(Photo from "The Philadelphia Story" courtesy of Flixster.com)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dumpster Diving

Re: “Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder” by Joanne Fluke

Hannah Swensen discovers the dead body of Ron LaSalle inside his delivery truck. Ron delivered dairy products to Lake Eden residents and was always very prompt on his route. On the day Hannah found him, he was late getting to her bakery. Unfortunately he is holding one of her chocolate chip crunch cookies in his hand. The police tell Hannah her cookies were not the cause of death: Ron was shot.

After the police question Hannah, she can move on to the next item on her agenda: helping serve cookies and lemonade to the local Boy Scout troop. The meeting is held at the high school and Hannah has a chance to ask Edna, the school’s cook, about Ron. Edna says that Ron must have had an assistant since she always set out coffee for him in the morning, and this morning there were two used paper coffee cups. Edna surmises Ron’s new assistant is a woman since one of the cups has lipstick on it.

Hannah asked what Edna did with the coffee cups and she said she threw them out in the trash. Unfortunately the school janitor has emptied all the trash into the dumpster, which is due to be picked up in a couple of hours. Hannah thinks the cups would be good clues, so she tries in vain to reach the police detective assigned to the case so he can come out and retrieve the coffee cups. No luck there, so Hannah does the only thing left to an enterprising female-sleuth: she goes dumpster diving for the coffee cups. Of course she winds up with a mess on her clothes and shoes but feels it is worth it since she finds the cups.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cookies for Breakfast?


Re: “Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder” by Joanne Fluke

This book is the first in the series and introduces us to female-sleuth Hannah Swensen. She has become one of my favorites. I’ve read this book before but haven’t blogged about it. I didn’t overly enjoy the last book I read in the series, The Carrot Cake Murder. The story seemed forced and the characters have just gone stale. So I thought I’d start at the beginning to see why I liked this series so much.

Hannah is 29 and single, a fact that her mother hates. Hannah lives in the tourist town of Lake Eden, Minnesota. Lake Eden, the town, is on the shores of Eden Lake, the lake. That confuses many of Hannah’s customers. She owns The Cookie Jar which is a small bakery specializing in fresh baked cookies. Many people come in for breakfast. I don’t know about you, but cookies are not part of my breakfast menu.

Hannah has developed all her recipes by trial and error and mixes up all the batches in her bakery by hand. The descriptions of the bakery and the cookies are so good I can almost envision working there! It would be great to come home every day smelling like cookies. And the samples - so delicious.

But I’m reminded of a high school friend of mine who worked at an ice cream place one summer. She said initially it was great, but then she got so sick of ice cream after serving it all the time.

I’m not so sure that would happen to me!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What does Salvador Dali have to do with Nancy Drew?

Re: “Not a Girl Detective” by Susan Kandel

You’ll have to read this book and find out! Seriously, Dali’s name kept popping up during this book. I wondered why and was confused by that, but author Kandel ties everything up quite nicely at the end of the book.

I don’t know how much was fact and how much was fiction, but Ms. Kandel acknowledges the Stratemeyer Archive at the New York Public Library so we know that some of the Nancy Drew trivia in the book was based on fact.

Yes Cece has a murder to solve - I won’t say whose - and she does so with a lot of moxie. Cece’s girlfriends Lael and Bridget are to her what Bess and George are to Nancy Drew.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is this: “What would a Nancy Drew book be without a happy ending?” Cece replies: “Real life”. That’s why we read books - to take us away from real life!

Here is a really neat interview of Susan Kandel talking about this book at the Nancy Drew Sleuths website: www.ndsleuths.com

You can buy the book here:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Many Mysteries to Solve

Re: “Not a Girl Detective” by Susan Kandel

Well Edgar never did show up at the Nancy Drew convention, and Cece is left with a mystery to solve. Many mysteries, in fact. What happened to Edgar? Why did he send her a photo of a woman through the mail? Who is the woman?

Why had two men broken into her house? On the way to the convention, who slashed the tires on her car? And who had stolen their lunch?

In an effort to solve these, and many more mysteries this book poses, Cece goes to an office supply store and buys lots of supplies to help her put together the puzzle pieces.



She buys a whiteboard, post-it notes, index cards, legal pads, pencils and an eraser. It’s the old-fashioned way: paper & pencil.

In the meantime her biography of Carolyn Keene is almost done. It just needs a conclusion.

Cece asks herself: Who was Carolyn Keene?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Edgar Edwards, the collector

Re: “Not a Girl Detective” by Susan Kandel

Cece has been asked to deliver a speech at a Nancy Drew fan convention, but before she does that she needs to hand-deliver a copy of the Nancy Drew book ‘The Mystery of the Ivory Charm’ as a favor to her bookstore owner friends. The person she is delivering the book to is named Edgar Edwards. Mr. Edwards is quite wealthy and collects many things, among them rare Nancy Drew books.

He also has foreign editions of the books. In Sweden Nancy Drew is known as Kitty. In Finland, she’s Paula. And in France she is Alice Roy.



Kitty och spindelmysteriet (The Spider Sapphire Myastery). Artwork by Norma Miralles, copyright © 1991 by ScandBook AB, Falun.

Cece must have made a good impression, because before she leaves Mr. Edwards house, he gives her a key to his vacation home in Palm Springs. She and her friends are to use it during the Nancy Drew fan convention as his guests.

The next day Edgar’s curator, a guy named Mitchell Honey, calls Cece to ask what she said to Edgar. He is quite upset as it seems that Edgar has disappeared and Mitchell thinks Cece was the last one to see him. Cece doesn’t have a clue.

So she and friends make the drive to Edgar’s Palm Springs house. The lights are on in the house but he isn’t there. There aren’t any clothes in his closet. Hmmm.

Not to worry - the organizer of the Nancy Drew convention tells Cece that Edgar called and he is going to give a speech, right before Cece’s. He says he has a great surprise for them all.

Monday, August 24, 2009

There is no Santa Claus and there is no Carolyn Keene

Re: “Not a Girl Detective” by Susan Kandel

This is the second book featuring female-sleuth Cece Caruso. Cece lives in Southern California - more specifically in a 1932 bungalow in West Hollywood. She is close to forty and is a divorced mother of a twenty-something daughter. Her father was a cop, her brothers are cops and she is dating a cop.

Cece is a writer and her current project is writing a biography of Carolyn Keene, the author of the famed Nancy Drew series. She has friends who own a bookstore which specializes in selling rare books. They are quick to tease Cece, telling her that she is writing a biography of a pseudonym.

Carolyn Keene does not exist - this is just a made-up name. Several people wrote the Nancy Drew books based on outlines they received from the publishers, The Stratemeyer Syndicate. The real identities of the authors were to be kept secret. Bummer.

And I suppose next they’ll be telling me there is no Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy either!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Evil Eye

Re: “Four to Score” by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie has temporarily moved in with Morelli until her apartment gets fixed. She tells people she is renting a room in his house, but Joe’s Grandma Bella doesn’t believe Stephanie and says she will put ‘the eye’ on her for fibbing. ‘The Eye’ is like an old Italian curse. When Grandma Bella puts ‘the eye’ on people supposedly bad things happen: men’s hair fall out, women get their periods non-stop, etc.

The rumors are flying around the burg that Stephanie is pregnant and she and Joe are getting married. Not going to happen, but she admits to having those kind of feelings for him. She settles on being ‘enamored’ with him, rather than being in love with him.

And so it goes. I finished this book today - another good one from Janet Evanovich. Although I thought there was more swearing than necessary, and there were a couple of bloody parts that I could have done without.

As always, a lot of laugh-out-loud comedy provided by Ms. Plum and Lula.

You can buy the book here:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Something’s Burning

Re: “Four to Score” by Janet Evanovich

Where there’s smoke, there’s Stephanie!

One day Stephanie goes out to her car (she’s parked in an outside parking lot) and it reeks of gasoline. In fact there are puddles of gas all around her car. She needs to go someplace so she calls up Lula to ask for a ride. While in the parking lot Stephanie and Lula run into Maxine Nowicki’s mother, who is a chain-smoker. Didn’t anyone ever tell her not to toss a lighted cigarette into an area where there is gasoline?

KABOOM - up go both cars. Stephanie’s mother says this tendency to blow up cars does NOT come from her side of the family.

On another day Stephanie is driving back home only to see lots of fire trucks, emergency vehicles and police cars filling her parking lot. Part of her building is on fire! Turns out it’s her apartment and someone has thrown a firebomb into her bedroom. Rex, her hamster has been rescued and is fine, but now Stephanie needs a safe place to stay.

So she decides to stay with Joe Morelli.



(photo courtesy of FreeFoto.com)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sally Sweet, the Transvestite

Re: “Four to Score” by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie goes to meet Salvatore (Sally) Sweet in the hopes that he can decipher the message she has from Maxine Nowicki.

He is a lead guitar player for a group called the Lovelies. He says when he was younger, he and Spock from Star Trek used to send messages to each other in code every day. (No further explanation is given so we are left to use our imaginations about that one!) In any event, it is very easy for him to figure out the message.

Sally, as he likes to be called, is a transvestite. So how many of us have had the chance to meet someone like him? Not many, I’d gather. Although I have known a transsexual. Here's the story:

Many, many years ago I joined a dating service. They matched me with a guy named “John”, whom I briefly dated. John had all these rules about what he wanted out of a relationship (like you couldn’t want to own a house, etc). Plus I thought he was sort of a cold fish - he didn’t like holding hands or kissing. He seemed to be confused about life. Later the dating service told me they hooked him up with just about all the women registered with the agency and none of them had worked out for him.

So several years later I picked up our local newspaper and was stunned to read a feature story on “Mary”. She used to be “John” - yep, it was the guy I dated! I thought the face looked familiar!

At the time the article was written, Mary worked at a local social service agency. The story detailed Mary’s decision to change from John and mentioned enough detail about his/her life that I knew it was the guy I dated all those years ago.

Was I freaked out? Yes! I try not to pass judgement because I believe that is supposed to be left to a higher power. Plus my parents taught me to treat people fairly. Still, I must admit I don’t understand.

In any event I’m glad that John/Mary got his/her life straightened out and hope she is happy now.

****
From the dictionary:
Transvestite: “a person and especially a male who adopts the dress and often the behavior typical of the opposite sex.”

Transsexual: “a person who strongly identifies with the opposite sex and may seek to live as a member of this sex especially by undergoing surgery and hormone therapy to obtain the necessary physical appearance.”

Transgender: “of, relating to, or being a person who identifies with a gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to the person's sex at birth.”

****

(Sorry if this post offends anyone. I just wanted to share this strange story.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

“Four to Score” by Janet Evanovich

My summer with bounty hunter Stephanie Plum continues with “Four to Score”.

Stephanie has been asked to find Maxine Nowicki, who was arrested for stealing her ex-boyfriend’s car. Maxine never showed for her court appearance and now she is classified as a felon.

Stephanie first tries talking with the boyfriend, Eddie Kuntz. Eddie thinks he is God’s gift to women and starts hitting on Stephanie. But she manages to get all the scoop on Maxine’s potential whereabouts, including her family, friends and work addresses.

Even so, Eddie winds up getting invited to dinner at Stephanie’s parent’s house in the burg. (Seems Eddie lost Stephanie’s business card and tried to look her up in the phone book. She wasn’t listed so he called her parent’s number. Grandma Mazur answered the phone, and need I say more?)

Turns out that Eddie gets a note from Maxine via ‘airmail’ - it was attached to a rock thrown through his window. It contains a cryptic message that neither Stephanie or Eddie can decipher. Stephanie decides to let some of her elderly neighbors in her apartment building take a crack at the message. After all, they do crossword puzzles most of the time so they should be able to solve this.

Unfortunately none of them can, but one neighbor refers Stephanie to her nephew who is supposed to be a whiz at solving puzzles. His name is Salvatore Sweet, aka Sally Sweet.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Poll results

Here are the results of my unofficial blog survey. People think Stephanie Plum should choose Joe Morelli and Hannah Swenson should chose Norman Rhodes.

Here’s the data:

68% chose Joe Morelli
28% chose Ranger
3% said Neither
(32 total votes)

80% chose Norman Rhodes
11% chose Mike Kingston
7% said Neither
(26 total votes)

Thanks to everyone who voted!

And now for an editorial:

I read a few comments on Amazon regarding the last couple of books in the Stephanie Plum and Hannah Swenson series. A lot of readers are getting tired of these female-sleuths dating two guys, and want the ladies to make a choice. I would agree. I don’t think it would hurt the story lines one bit.

I can see Stephanie not wanting to make a choice between Morelli and Ranger. She’s a bit more ‘flighty’.

But for Hannah, it seems out of character to have two guys. She’s a responsible lady. Both Mike and Norman have asked Hannah to marry them and she’s turned both down. Yet when she sees hunky Mike with another woman, she gets jealous. That’s uncalled for. He’s got every right to date someone else, especially since she said no to him.

But I suppose as long as the books keep selling, the authors and/or publishers don’t want to deviate from a tried and true formula.

Anyway, that’s just my two-cents-worth.

Done with “Three to Get Deadly” by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie and Ranger find Uncle Mo, and it turns out he is not a saint. I won’t reveal anything else since I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

Stephanie makes a comment toward the end of the book that I thought was quite funny. It is regarding ironing. When something needs ironing, she puts it in her ironing basket. If a year goes by and the item is still in the basket, she tosses the item away! That way she ends up with clothes that don’t need ironing. You go girl!

Amazon has a nice boxed set that contains the first 3 books. You can get it here:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Ranger Food

Re: “Three to Get Deadly” by Janet Evanovich

Ranger has agreed to help Stephanie find Uncle Mo. But first he wants her to get into shape so she can run after the bad guys and catch them. This means eating healthier and jogging. Now Stephanie is not really into doing either of these things, but she reluctantly agrees.

He gets her a sandwich consisting of bread and what she calls ‘grass’: mixed sprouts, shredded carrot, cucumber and raisins. She’s happy the sandwich includes raisins since she thought someone got her sandwich fillings from a rabbit cage!

Before they go jogging, Ranger brings her ginseng tea. She hates it but he says it’s good for the circulation. For breakfast he makes her a smoothie. She says it needs chocolate.

When Ranger goes home to have dinner, she thinks he’s going home to have tofu and tree bark.

Stephanie is definitely not a vegetarian, a gourmet cook or a conuessier of fine foods! She’d rather have Pino’s pizza, Cheeze-Doodles and Tasty-Cakes any day.



(Photo courtesy stock.xchng)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Run-in With Uncle Mo

Re: “Three to Get Deadly” by Janet Evanovich

During her search for Uncle Mo, Stephanie finds a couple of dead bodies. OK, well one ‘finds’ her. So she asks Ranger for help and he agrees. They go to Uncle Mo’s store to follow-up on a tip that he is there, and sure enough Stephanie bumps into Uncle Mo. Literally.

He says she is going to ruin everything and that he can’t go to the police station just yet. Hmm, wonder what Uncle Mo is up to? She says never mind, he is going to have to come with her anyway. Then he points a huge can of pepper spray at Stephanie and takes off with Ranger’s BMW.

That’ll teach Ranger to leave his keys in the car!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Three to Get Deadly" by Janet Evanovich

My summer with Stephanie Plum continues with “Three to Get Deadly”.



Stephanie has been asked to find Moses Bedemier, AKA Uncle Mo. Uncle Mo is a fixture in the burg because he runs a popular candy store and has done so since 1958. And his store has never been closed, not even for one day.

Unfortunately Uncle Mo was busted by a rookie cop for speeding. Low and behold, the cop noticed Uncle Mo carrying a concealed weapon - a big no-no in Trenton, New Jersey. So bond was posted with the court but Uncle Mo failed to appear for his court date. Now Stephanie must try to find him.

Everyone in the burg knows Uncle Mo. Everyone knows that Uncle Mo would never do anything wrong. They say ‘the man is a saint. He’s married to his job, like a priest’.

So Stephanie and Lula, her ‘assistant bounty hunter’, go to Mo’s store only to find it closed. They check out his apartment only to find nobody is home. His car is not in his garage.

Turns out Mo is missing and no-one knows where he is.

(Photo courtesy stock.xchng)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Done with ‘Two for the Dough’ by Janet Evanovich

This book has it all: suspense, humor, romance, car chases & car crashes, dead bodies & dead body parts. OK, I could have done with more romance and fewer dead body parts but that’s just me.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and plan to read ‘Three to Get Deadly’ soon.

You can buy the book here:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cagney and Lacey

Re: “Two for the Dough” by Janet Evanovich

This book re-introduces us to Lula. We first meet her in “One for the Money” as a self-described ‘ho’. She is attacked and injured in that book and now has decided to give up her former profession to work at Cousin Vinnie’s bail bonds office as a file clerk. Lula still has a lot of street-smarts left, a fact that Stephanie uses to her advantage.

Lula is so good at doing the filing that she wants to help Stephanie out and become an assistant bounty hunter. Connie, Vinnie’s secretary and Stephanie agree to the plan, and Lula is so thrilled she refers to herself and Stephanie as Cagney and Lacey.

Stephanie says she wants to be Cagney. But then Lula says she wants to be Cagney. They go around and around about it. Finally they go off in Stephanie’s big blue Buick on the first of many screwball adventures together.

In my opinion they are the Lucy and Ethyl of the female-sleuth world!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

How Do You Lose 24 Caskets?

Re: “Two for the Dough” by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie is asked to take on a ‘side job’ by Spiro Stiva, who helps operate Stiva’s Mortuary. He will pay her $1,000 to find 24 bare-bones (HA!) caskets that are missing. They were stored in a secure storage locker. Stephanie has a terrifying thought: what if the caskets aren’t empty? But Spiro assures her they are.

Of course Spiro wants to keep the theft hush-hush from the police, but Stephanie tells Morelli about it anyway. They both wonder why anyone would want to steal 24 caskets?

To check this out, Stephanie will have to find a new set of wheels as her Jeep has been stolen. Grandma Mazur has just the thing: her brother Sandor’s 1953 Buick. It’s powder blue with a white top and whitewall tires, and it’s big - very big. Stephanie’s father loves this car - says it’s built to last. We’ll see how long this car lasts with Stephanie!



(This is a picture of a 1953 Buick Roadmaster that was owned by Howard Hughes. Picture is courtesy www.MotorCities.com.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

“Two for the Dough” by Janet Evanovich

This is the second book in the Stephanie Plum series. As the book opens, Stephanie is after Kenny Mancuso - and so is bounty-hunter extraordinaire Ranger AND Trenton cop Joe Morelli. Mancuso has been charged with shooting his former best friend, a gas station attendant, in the knee. Now Mancuso is a fugitive from the law and Stephanie is determined to find him. In a strange twist, Morelli is related to Mancuso - they are cousins.

Soon we find out that the gas station attendant has been shot to death. His name was Moogey Bues. I wonder where in the world did author Evanovich come up with this name? Maybe her favorite band was the Moody Blues?

Soon we are introduced to Stephanie’s 72-year-old Grandma Mazur’s ‘hobby’: she likes to go to funeral homes to view the deceased. The problem is that when she does this, she usually makes a spectacle of herself. Not only by the clothes she wears (like a fire-engine red dress), but by the things she does. Like tripping over her own shoes and falling into a casket!

If I were her, I’d get another hobby. But then we’d miss those moments of outrageous behavior that are good for a laugh.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Done with ‘One for the Money’ by Janet Evanovich

It was hard to put this book down. Lots of suspense, a few funny moments, a crazed psychopath, a crazy grandma, a surprise ending and a dollop of romance make for one great book.

No wonder why the Stephanie Plum series is so successful! Two thumbs up!

You can buy the book here:

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Prey: Joe Morelli

Re: ‘One for the Money’ by Janet Evanovich

In ‘One for the Money’, Bounty Hunter Stephanie Plum is after Joe Morelli. He is a police officer and is wanted by the same police for shooting and killing an unarmed man.

Stephanie and Morelli have a history together. They both grew up in the same neighborhood, The Burg. He lived two blocks from her. Her mother warned her to stay away from the Morelli boys since they were trouble. Of course Stephanie didn’t do that and wound up in the Morelli garage playing train with Joe. She was the ‘tunnel’ and he was the ‘train’. Choo-Choo!

Their next encounter was ten years later when Joe came into the bakery where Stephanie worked after school. (This was high school). He stayed until the store closed and they did a few things of a sexual nature on the floor of the bakery.

She didn’t see Joe again for three years until one day she spotted him on the sidewalk outside the local meat market. She was driving her dad’s Buick, and took the opportunity to drive up on the curb, hitting Morelli in the process and breaking his leg. All this because she was mad at him for not calling her!

Their paths cross again several times in this book. The sparks definitely fly when these two are together!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bounty Hunter Training

Re: One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

Most everyone needs some on-the-job training when they start a new job. Stephanie sure does in her new role as a bounty hunter and apprehension agent. So Vinnie’s secretary Connie sets Stephanie up with Ricardo Carlos Manoso, a.k.a. Ranger. Connie says Ranger is supposed to be pretty good as he was formerly with Special Forces.

At first Ranger doesn’t take Stephanie seriously. But he likes her and says it’s OK to be like Professor Henry Higgins in the movie My Fair Lady. As Stephanie progresses on-the-job, he realizes he has to help her more than he thought. So he helps get her a gun and handcuffs and all the other gear she’ll need to be a bona-fide bounty hunter.

Grandma Mazur is very proud of Stephanie’s new career and to show it, picks up Stephanie’s gun and pretends to fire away. Only the gun is loaded and she shoots the chicken they are having for dinner that evening. And also breaks a plate and puts a hole in the tablecloth and the table. Seems the fun never ends at the Plum house!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hello Stephanie Plum!

Re: 'One for the Money' by Janet Evanovich

We get our first introduction to Stephanie Plum in this book. She was born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey in a blue-collar area called The Burg. Stephanie is single and lives in an apartment by herself. But she routinely heads home to have dinner with her mother, father and Grandma Mazur (her grandma on her mom’s side). Stephanie has a married sister - a fact that her mother is always bringing up to her.

Stephanie had been working in Newark as a discount lingerie buyer but got laid off from her job. So she’s been hocking her possessions to come up with money to pay the bills. Unfortunately her Mazda Miata has just been reposessed and she is desperate. Her mother says she should go see her cousin Vinnie Plum as she heard he has a filing job open at his bail bonds company.

When Stephanie gets there she is informed that the filing job has been filled. But Connie, Vinnie’s secretary, talks Stephanie into doing skip tracing. The job involves finding people that don’t show up for their scheduled court appearance. If she succeeds, she can earn 10% of the posted bond amount.

So for Stephanie’s very first assignment, she decides to go after a guy who’s bail was set at $100,000! Doing the math - if Stephanie can bring this guy in to the police station, she can make $10,000!

As she drools over this thought, she asks who the guy is: it’s Joe Morelli. You could say Stephanie is ‘intimately’ acquainted with Morelli as he took away her virginity when she was in high school.

So Stephanie decides to become a ‘bounty hunter’ and go after Morelli.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Summer with Stephanie Plum

Next up: One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

Given that ‘Finger Lickin’ Fifteen’ came out in hardcover AND ‘Fearless Fourteen’ came out in paperback on the same day, 6/23/09, I thought I’d start reading the Stephanie Plum series again with book number one. I normally don’t start with the first book when a new book comes out in the series, but it’s been awhile since I’ve visited Trenton, New Jersey. Plus I thought it might be fun to spend part of the summer with Stephanie and the gang.

My first Stephanie book was ‘Hot Six’. I picked that up at a book sale and when my husband saw it, he gave me this ‘you’ve got to be kidding’ look. Like we all know she meant ‘Hot Sex’!

I had to explain to him that this is a ‘numbers’ series and it’s kind of like what Sue Grafton does with the ‘alphabet’ series. Then he got it because he’s read a few of the Sue Grafton books himself.

At first I didn't like 'Hot Six' but I decided to give it a chance. Once I did, I was hooked. Soon the Stephanie Plum books became LOL - Laugh Out Loud - material.

So ‘One for the Money’ - here I come!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy July 4th!




Sunday, June 28, 2009

Done with "Murder of a Sweet Old Lady" by Denise Swanson

I didn’t intend to finish this book yesterday but I got so involved in it, I couldn’t put it down. Well written and suspenseful - just pulled me right into the story.

Author Denise Swanson’s picture and short bio is on the back inside cover of the paperback. It says she worked as a school psychologist for 17 years. Swanson’s real-life background in the field adds credibility to the story since she can write with authority on exactly what Skye is going through as a school psychologist.

Skye becomes so frustrated doing her job that at one point she takes a ceramic jar she purchased when she graduated from college and throws it against the wall! Not only does she have to try to help the students, but has to deal with their parents and school administrators. She says graduate school and her internship did not prepare her for real life. I can definitely see that!

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

You can buy the book here:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Not Up On Technology

Re: Murder of a Sweet Old Lady by Denise Swanson

It’s really hard to be up on the latest and greatest new technological ‘gadget’, but some people don’t have many gadgets at all. That’s the case with Skye’s parents, May and Jed.

At one point Skye admonishes May about their lack of ownership of technological devices, like a cell phone, answering machine and a computer.

May replies that they’ve gotten along just fine for 35 years without all that. She calls the internet the ‘Sinnernet’ (LOL) and believes that pictures of naked women just come up on the computer automatically when you turn it on.

Skye has learned early on when to end a conversation with her mother, so she decides now is not the time to explain the internet with May.

I personally know people who don’t have cell phones, answering machines or computers. I think their reasons fall into one of two categories: monetary or simplicity of living. A - they don’t think they can afford it, or B - they don’t think they need it.

It’s hard to imagine life today without these gadgets!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cranky, Crabby & Cantankerous

Re: Murder of a Sweet Old Lady by Denise Swanson

Boy, Skye sure has some nasty relatives. They aren’t very polite or civil toward her. They accuse her of stealing things out of Grandma Leofanti’s house and wonder why she contacted Simon the coroner before she contacted them.

Her cousins go so far as to ‘kidnap’ her - after school they grab her by the arms and force her to ride with them in their car all the way to Grandma’s farm. They don’t believe that Grandma was murdered and think Skye is making it up. They tell her that her loyalties should be toward the family and then they leave her there to walk home!

Fortunately just when she thinks she can’t take another step, a friend drives by and offers a ride to Skye.

Sadly a death in the family can sometimes bring out the worst in people. Old hurts can easily resurface. Family secrets can come out. And greed rears it’s ugly head making people fight for money and steal items from the estate. It’s really too bad. Makes you wonder what's important in life.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hey, Diddle, Diddle, the Cat and the Riddle

Re: Murder of a Sweet Old Lady by Denise Swanson

This is the title of Chapter One of this book and sets the stage for what is about to happen.

Skye Denison is a school psychologist and each day after school she goes to visit her elderly grandmother, Grandma Leofanti. Grandma Leofanti lives in a farmhouse in the country. She has a live-in caretaker to help her since her mind is not what it used to be but physically she is very healthy.

On this particular day when Skye goes to visit, the caretaker is nowhere to be found. The cat is on the front porch and it is never allowed outside. Skye senses something is wrong and after searching the house finds her grandmother on her bed with the covers pulled up over her head. She is dead, leaving Skye to wonder what is going on and who pulled the covers over her grandmother’s dead body? And why did she die, since Grandma Leofanti’s doctor said there was nothing wrong with her physically?

So Skye has to notify her family and the authorities. Among the first to show up is Skye’s ‘Uncle Charlie’. He is not really her uncle, he is her godfather. All 6-feet, 300 pounds of him. Next up is Simon Reid, the local coroner and funeral home director. Skye is also dating him. (Reminds me of an episode from Season One of the TV show “The Nanny” where Fran the Nanny is dating the funeral director and all the jokes that come out of that situation.)

Anyway Simon and Grandma Leofanti’s doctor do an autopsy and discover that Grandma did not die of natural causes - she was murdered.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Murder of a Sweet Old Lady by Denise Swanson

I just started reading this book. It’s the second in the series featuring female-sleuth Skye Denison of Scumble River, Illinois.

Author Swanson states in the intro of the book that Scumble River is not a real town. A lot of the farmland in Scumble River and it’s surrounding areas is viewed as being hot property by real estate developers. The developers see it as the next bedroom community for Chicago and are after local farmers to buy their land.

For me it’s easy to envision Scumble River as a real place. That’s because I’m from Wisconsin, which is right next door to Illinois. I have relatives in Chicago in fact and have been there several times in my life. Chicago metro is spreading ever outward and into our own backdoor.

And when Ms. Swanson describes how rural neighbors living on the same road can see each other’s farm-homes when the crops are young - well yeah, that’s because a lot of Illinois is pretty flat.



Photo courtesy stock.xchng