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

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Done with “Dead and Berried” by Karen MacInerney

Female-sleuth Natalie Barnes is one level-headed lady. She finds the murderer of two people on Cranberry Island by using (and keeping) her head and her wits about her. I was totally in the dark as to the identity of the murderer until the very end of the book.

As for the reputed ghost of the Gray Whale Inn - well I’m not going to give anything away about that. You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Included in the paperback version are some recipes that Natalie would serve to her guests for breakfast. More recipes can be found at author MacInerney’s site:

You can buy the book here:

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Distasteful Detective

Re: Dead and Berried by Karen MacInerney

Someone has turned up dead on Cranberry Island and Natalie has the sad misfortune of discovering the body. Of course the police have to be notified and Sergeant Grimes is on the case.

This guy is one crotchety cop! He smells of stale cigarette smoke and has greasy hair and a pot-belly. He jumps to conclusions, makes ridiculous accusations and doesn’t listen.

In short, he’s about as distasteful as they come. You wonder how he got his job in the first place!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Cheating Ex-Fiance

Re: Dead and Berried by Karen MacInerney

As Natalie opens the door to admit the latest guest to her bed & breakfast inn, she smells something familiar - a man’s cologne. Turns out that Natalie’s former fiance Benjamin has come for a visit. All the way from Austin, Texas to Cranberry Island, Maine.

He made the reservation under an assumed name knowing that Natalie would not have accepted the reservation if he had used his own.

Natalie broke off the engagement when she found out Benjamin had a wondering eye and a roving hand. But she finds that she is still attracted to him which makes her dilemma all the more difficult: Benjamin has come to ask her to marry him - again.

He says he made a mistake and feels she is the woman for him.

Natalie has been dating her next-door neighbor John. Unfortunately, John walks in unexpectedly while Natalie and Benjamin are locked in a steamy kiss. So this complicates things for Natalie just a bit!

She knows she should tell Benjamin to leave - and say no to his marriage proposal - but just can’t force herself to do it.

I say dump the dude!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dead and Berried by Karen MacInerney

I’m currently reading Dead and Berried, the second book in the Gray Whale Inn mystery series featuring female-sleuth Natalie Barnes. Natalie owns the Gray Whale Inn bed & breakfast on Cranberry Island, Maine.

This book opens with Natalie being awakened at 3:30AM by noises above her head - her bedroom is right below the attic. She thinks it’s just the wind, but the soft ‘thump-thump’ and creaking noises keep re-occurring. Natalie screws up her courage and goes to the attic to investigate. Nothing is there.

Natalie heard from a friend that the 150-year old inn is haunted. Of course, she heard that AFTER she bought the inn. The story goes that in the 1850’s a young girl cook was murdered there, and the locals swear they’ve seen lights in the windows at night when the inn was empty, One local gent who was inside the inn making repairs said he saw a ghostly lady on the stairs wearing an old fashioned dress.

So Natalie goes to the Cranberry Island Historical Museum to do some research and speaks with librarian Matilda. Matilda has information that says the dead girl was stabbed to death in the servant’s quarters, which were above the kitchen. Natalie realizes with a start that her bedroom is right above the kitchen! Yikes!

I don’t think I’d buy an inn (or a home) that was reputed to be haunted. I’m sure there are several people that would love to stay in a haunted inn. Let’s get the marketing people ready on that one!

Photo courtesy stock.xchng

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wreath of Deception by Mary Ellen Hughes

This is the second book I took along on our recent vacation.

“Wreath of Deception” is the first book in the Craft Corner Mystery series featuring female-sleuth Jo McAllister.

Jo is recently widowed and has moved from New York City to a small town in Maryland named Abbotsville. Her childhood best friend Carrie and Carrie’s husband Dan help Jo pick up the pieces of her life after a tragic accident killed Jo’s husband. Jo has pooled all her financial resources to open up her retail store called Jo’s Craft Corner.

Jo is a jewelry maker by trade and Carrie is very good with needlework. Together this forms the basis of their business selling craft supplies and holding crafting workshops.

Finally after all the long months of planning, Jo and Carrie hold their grand-opening. For entertainment she hires a clown named “Cuddles”. His real name is Kyle Sandborn and he is an aspiring actor working for the local community theater.

The grand-opening of Jo’s Craft Corner is a success, all but for one thing - Cuddles the clown (AKA Kyle) is found dead in her storeroom, stabbed with one of Jo’s knitting needles. Police Lieutenant Russ Morgan suspects Jo of the murder and she must work to clear herself.

I liked this book and I thought it was well written. I like the characters that Jo teaches in her workshops, especially Ina Mae and Loralee. They are no-nonsense, but friendly and caring friends.

And I do like crafting, but for those who don’t that part of the story-line isn’t overpowering. Front and center in the book are Jo’s efforts to uncover the real killer.

Unlike some other female-sleuths Jo is not hyper or an over-achiever: she is a practical gal who is simply trying to heal and survive. She is smart and helps Carrie and Dan bridge a gap with their uncommunicative teenage son, Charlie.

OH - and I almost forgot - the ending is pretty suspenseful too!

Included with the paperback are instructions on how to make a woodland wreath and a recipe for Carrie’s chili. Mmmm!

I'm looking forward to the next book in this series.

You can buy Wreath of Deception here:

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Birthday Party Murder by Leslie Meier

My hubby and I were on vacation recently and I read two mysteries. “Birthday Party Murder” was the first. I’ll discuss the second book in a later post.

A brief synopsis: this book is a continuation of the Lucy Stone mystery series. Lucy is a busy mom of four with a part-time job as a reporter at the town newspaper “The Pennysaver”. The birthday party refers to the upcoming birthday of Miss Tilley, the town’s retired librarian. She will be 90 - quite a milestone to reach - and Lucy and her friends decide to get the whole town of Tinker’s Cove, Maine involved in the celebration.

Along the way a long-lost niece and great nephew show up and move in with Miss Tilley. Next thing you know they have taken over her house and life and won’t allow Miss Tilley’s friends to see her.

The murder is that of prominent attorney Sherman Cobb. The police think it is suicide but Sherman’s partner is convinced otherwise and asks Lucy to look into it.

In this book, Lucy:

1. Plans Miss Tilley’s 90th birthday party
2. Tries to figure out what to do about Miss Tilley’s bossy niece
3. Supervises her 14-year-old daughter’s birthday party sleepover
4. Deals with her son’s poor grades in college
5. Works at her newspaper job
6. Is a nurse-maid to her husband who had a work-related accident
7. Is a mom to her other two children
8. Takes care of the house
9. Purchases face creams because she sees a few wrinkles in the mirror
10. Is pulled over by the cops for traffic violations and is too busy to renew her license

And there are probably some other things I’m forgetting too.

This is all too much for me! I got tired just reading this book.

I think people like to read for escapism and I don’t think this book is going to do it for the hectic life of working moms. It will just remind them of their own lives. Too little fiction and too much auto-biography!

On the plus side, I like the cover art-work for this book:

Saturday, June 6, 2009

New Stephanie Plum book

Available June 23 in hardcover.

Thursday, June 4, 2009 is Joanne Fluke’s website regarding the Hannah Swensen mystery series. Author Fluke has pictures of each book on the site, and if you scroll down further on the Home Page you will see the web-pages shown as cookies. That’s because Hannah is the proprietor of a bakery shop called The Cookie Jar.

As you move your mouse over the cookies, you’ll see that someone has taken a bite out of them. Pretty clever, I think! I’d like to think these are pictures of chocolate chip cookies, but raisin cookies would be fine too!

Clicking on the “Recipe” page/cookie, Ms. Fluke has a picture of some scrumptious cookies called ‘Mini Cheeseburger Cookies’. The recipe can be found in her next book, ‘Cream Puff Murder’. That’s a fun way to promote your next book! And since I like cheeseburgers and cookies, I’ll have to check that book out.

Perusing the “What’s Next” page/cookie, she has plans to write a cookbook with all of Hannah’s published recipes. Included will be some new recipes too. Mmmmm! The book is supposed to be released in October, 2011. And here I was wondering how I could scan in all those recipes from the paperback books. Now I won't have to bother!