Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happy Reading to You, Until We Meet Again!

It’s been fun! But I’ve decided to take a hiatus from this blog. I’ll keep reading because I love to read. However my attention and energy needs to be focused on the next stage of my life - moving our family and possessions almost 2,000 miles across the US.

It’s been a dream of my husband and mine for so many years to live in the Pacific Northwest. As you can imagine, we are very excited and happy for the dream to finally become reality!

Until then, there is so much work to do. And I want this blog to be fun - and not more work. So I will take a break and hope someday to be back.

I will leave you with this quote:

"To read is to empower 
To empower is to write 
To write is to influence 
To influence is to change 
To change is to live." 

~ Jane Evershed ~
"More than a Tea Party"

To me, this quote says "To read is to live".

Take care everyone - LadyPI

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The First Amateur Female Detective in Print

Since I love reading about female-sleuths, I found myself wondering about the first female-sleuth ever to appear in a book solely devoted to her. Who was she?

I thought back to my own reading experiences and guessed that it would be Nancy Drew or Miss Marple. So I did a little research on both (from Wikipedia):

Nancy Drew: “The character was conceived by Edward Stratemeyer, founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Stratemeyer had created the Hardy Boys series in 1926 (although the first volumes were not published until 1927). The series had been such a success that he decided to create a similar series for girls, with an amateur girl detective as the heroine. While Stratemeyer believed that a woman's place was in the home, he was aware that the Hardy Boys books were popular with girl readers and wished to capitalize on girls' interest in mysteries with a strong female heroine. The first four titles were published in 1930 and were an immediate success”.

Miss Marple: Agatha Christie’s famous sleuth made her first appearance in a full-length novel named “The Murder in the Vicarage”. This book was also published in 1930.

Hollywood capitalized on the success of both characters and put them in the movies: Miss Marple’s first appearance was in the early 1960’s film “Murder, She Said”, and Nancy Drew showed up in “Nancy Drew - Detective” from the late 1930’s. I’ve seen both films and they are enjoyable.

In a strange coincidence, four films were made from each book series.

They are:
Nancy Drew - Detective - 1938;
Nancy Drew - Reporter - 1939;
Nancy Drew - Trouble Shooter - 1939;
Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase - 1939

and Miss Marple in:

Murder She Said - 1961;
Murder at the Gallop - 1963;
Murder Ahoy - 1964;
Murder Most Foul - 1964.

Does anyone know of a book about a female-sleuth pre-dating 1930? Again, one that would have a book solely devoted to her, and not just be a character in another book.

If so, post a comment and share your knowledge please!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

“This Pen for Hire” by Laura Levine

I opened up the paperback version of this book to find the inner cover listing several quotations praising the book from various sources: authors, famous people and the media, including Garrison Keillor, Publishers Weekly, author Carolyn Hart, author Leslie Meier, a writer from the old “I Love Lucy” TV show and even the executive producer for “The Simpsons” TV show.

So I read the book with high hopes. It wasn’t until I was almost done that I opened up the back cover to read about the author, Laura Levine. She is a comedy writer who has written for several classic TV shows including “The Bob Newhart Show”, “Laverne & Shirley”, “The Love Boat”, “The Jeffersons”, “Three’s Company” and “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”.

That explained like I was reading a script for a Bob Hope movie. It’s almost like a comedy with a mystery thrown in for good measure.

“This Pen for Hire” is the first in the series featuring female-sleuth Jaine Austen - first name pronounced “Jane”. Her mother liked author Jane Austen, but couldn’t spell.

Jaine is 36, divorced, and works as a freelance writer who will write just about anything for money. Her business is called “This Pen for Hire”. Jaine used to work in advertising. She is working on a slogan to further promote her business: “Jaine Austen, Discreet Inquiries: Work Done with Pride, Not Prejudice”.


So one day a guy named Howard Murdoch contacts her for help. He has not been blessed in the looks department, and doesn’t seem to have much going for him. He asks Jaine to write a personal love note to an attractive aerobics instructor named Stacy. At first Jaine says no, but when Howard triples her fee she accepts.

Jaine goes on about her business until one day when she is shocked to see the news on TV: Stacy has been murdered and the police think Howard killed her. Jaine just knows that Howard couldn’t have done it, and sets out to prove the smug police detective wrong. And she does.

If you like your mysteries sprinkled with lots of jokes (mostly one-liners), this is the book for you. I enjoyed it but I wish the mystery had more depth to it.

You can buy the book here:

Friday, August 27, 2010

“String of Lies” by Mary Ellen Hughes

This is book number two in the Craft Corner mystery series featuring recent widow and craft store owner Jo McAllister.

We find Jo wondering about the fate of her store as she hears that wealthy businessman Parker Holt is buying up local real estate, including several stores on the street where Jo’s Craft Corner is located. Jo tries to reach him by phone, but he has a very protective secretary and she never hears back from him.

Since Jo’s best friend’s husband, Dan is working on a home improvement project for Mr. Holt, she decides to pay Mr. Holt a visit and asks Dan for the address. When Jo arrives she sees a car in the driveway but nobody answers the doorbell. She notices a side door is ajar. When she steps inside, she sees that Mr. Holt has fallen down the stairs and appears to be dead.

The police arrive and rule Mr. Holt’s death a homicide based on the evidence they find at the scene. Unfortunately suspicion is thrown upon Dan and his employee, Xavier. Jo knows this can’t be true so she sets out to find the truth.

Complicating matters is the fact that Parker Holt’s wife is the niece of the town’s mayor. Jo thinks the murder investigation will be wrapped up quickly, without looking at other suspects since the mayor is involved.

So Jo enlists her set of trusted helpers: her students from her craft classes. This time she is teaching a beading class. She lets them know what she’s uncovered and they help her ask questions of potential suspects and make sense of it all.

And they have an addition to the class - Vernon, the town’s butcher. He’s retired and is looking for a hobby. Turns out he’s got a knack for the craft and comes up with some beautiful beaded jewelry, even better than most of what the women make. One classmate jokes and says that Vernon didn’t know what he was getting into when he signed up for this class, which should be called ‘Beaded Earrings and Murder 101’.

We also find Jo on a first-name basis with police Lieutenant Russ Morgan. Their interest in each other is deepening. I’ve noticed a few books in this genre have the amateur female-sleuth and the male police-investigator become romantically involved. They each rely on the other.

I thought this was a good read as the book really held my interest. You can buy it here:

Friday, August 20, 2010

“The Chocolate Bear Burglary” by JoAnna Carl

Now for the last book I read on my recent trip out-of-town. “The Chocolate Bear Burglary” is the second entry in the Chocoholic mystery series featuring Lee McKinney. Lee is a former Texan who moved to the resort community of Warner Pier, Michigan after her divorce to help her Aunt Nettie run the family business, TenHuis Chocolade.

It’s winter in Warner Pier and the local Chamber of Commerce has decided on a “Teddy Bear Getaway” to help bring tourists and customers to the town. So several local businesses are using the teddy bear theme in their promotional activities. For example, the local bed and breakfasts have filled their rooms with teddy bears. Restaurants are serving honey cakes. A local theater group is even putting on a play called “Teddy and His Bear”, a comedy about the hunting exploits of President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt.

For it’s part TenHuis Chocolade is selling several varieties and sizes of molded chocolate teddy bears. They are also displaying several antique chocolate molds, many of which are in the shape of bears. And my favorite - gift certificates held in the backpacks of cuddly adorable plush teddy bears.

The antique chocolate molds are owned by a local woman whose grandfather used them in his chocolate business in the early 1900’s. The story goes that he sold his business, along with the molds, to the Hershey Company in 1910.

Late one night TenHuis Chocolade is broken into and one of the chocolate molds in the shape of a teddy bear goes missing. Soon after someone is murdered and Lee is chased by a menacing person riding a snowmobile. That was quite suspenseful!

The mystery is complicated by the arrival of Lee’s former stepson from Texas, who won’t say why he suddenly left college and drove all the way to Michigan in the winter with just a few dollars in his pocket. He always seems to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, a fact the police have noted.

And Lee and local hunk Joe Woodyard are working through some tough times in their romance. Lee struggles to understand why Joe won’t take her out in public, but he had been married to a famous person before and had some bad experiences with the press. So he’s determined not to live out his love life in the media again. Lee wonders if that’s just an excuse to not take her out on a date! I suspect we will find out in later books in the series.

I enjoyed this book and some of the chocolate trivia included within. You can buy it here:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

“Slay It With Flowers” by Kate Collins

This book is the second in the Flower Shop mystery series featuring female-sleuth Abby Knight. And it’s the second book I read on my recent out-of-town trip.

Abby owns “Bloomers” which is located in the small downtown of New Chapel, Indiana. She is a law-school dropout who used the proceeds of her grandfather’s college trust fund to purchase Bloomers. I say ‘purchase’ lightly because Abby has a large mortgage to pay. The trust fund only paid for a down payment.

Abby’s friends and coworkers think she meddles too much in things. She likes to deny this. In her opinion, she’s a curious, caring person who doesn’t like the injustices of the world. She refuses to play politics, just as her father did in his former job on the New Chapel police force. It cost him some promotions, but he always felt like he did the right thing.

Abby’s father is her hero.

“Slay It With Flowers” finds Abby working on her cousin Jillian’s wedding flowers. Jillian is engaged for the umpteenth-time and Abby really hopes this particular wedding is not called off. Mainly because Jillian’s parents are wealthy and the profit from the wedding flowers would help pay Abby’s bills.

However it looks like there may not be a wedding since one of the groomsmen is missing. Eventually another person in the wedding party is found dead, and Jillian begs for Abby’s help to try to solve the case. So Abby does what comes naturally: she meddles.

Abby has always been asked to be a bridesmaid for Jillian’s weddings and she has a closet full of bridesmaid dresses to attest to that fact. For that reason she hopes this wedding goes off without a hitch.

Plus she’s tired of playing those silly games at Jillian’s shower. They always play the one where you have to come up with a sentence or phrase using all the letters in Jillian’s new married name. The best phrase wins a prize. This time it’s Jillian Knight Osborne, and Abby comes up with “Kill no bones in a jig, Ruth”. It doesn’t win any prizes.

And then there is another mystery: the one of the Emporer’s Spa - a new massage parlor in town. Why are no women allowed in the place? Why does an old cruel-looking man guard the door? Do they give more than just massages there?

But Abby’s meddling pays off as she manages to solve both puzzles. Another fun read in the series.

You can buy the book here:

Monday, August 16, 2010

“Finger Lickin’ Fifteen” by Janet Evanovich

I was recently out of town and had a lot of time on my hands. So I read three books. This is the first of the three.

"Finger Lickin' Fifteen" is the 15th installment in the popular Stephanie Plum bounty hunter series by Janet Evanovich.

Here we see Stephanie helping her bounty hunter mentor Ranger with his security business which is located in Trenton New Jersey. Several of his client’s homes and businesses have been broken into and that’s not good for business - or for Ranger’s reputation. So he asks Stephanie to help him figure out who is stealing the secret pass codes. She does.

Stephanie and Ranger are also wildly attracted to each other. Does she give into temptation? I’m not telling!

In another side-plot Lula, Stephanie’s sidekick, is the sole witness to a murder and we see her getting chased by the bad guys. The man that was killed was a TV chef who was going to sponsor a local barbecue cook-off contest. Lula is convinced the killers will show up for the contest so she decides to enter it. This leads to a lot of jokes about getting gas from eating lots of meat with barbecue sauce on it.

Stephanie’s goofy Grandma Mazur is recruited to be Lula’s assistant chef and that leads to all sorts of comic complications and messes.

At one point Lula and Grandma Mazur are at Stephanie’s parent’s home testing a new barbecue recipe. They serve the food to Stephanie’s dad, at which point he asks “What the Sam Hill is this?”

I know firsthand what this expression means. Sam Hill was an actual person who had dreams of building a Quaker settlement along the Columbia River Gorge in Washington state.

Unfortunately the land he purchased was dry and desolate, and he couldn’t convince folks to join him.

Sam Hill even built a home for his wife there, but she refused to live in it. Local residents were evidently astonished by what Sam was doing, and so the phrase “What in the Sam Hill?” was born.

Eventually the home was dedicated as a museum, called the Maryhill Museum. You can read more about it at their site:
Maryhill Museum. I’ve been to the museum and I thought it was pretty nice.

To wrap up, I thought this book was quite interesting for the first half. But the second half was a let down for me. There were a lot of good ideas that didn’t really go anywhere and I found that to be a disappointment.

Friday, August 13, 2010

"The Ghost and the Dead Deb" by Alice Kimberly

This is the second book in the Haunted Bookshop mystery series. I just re-read this book, but I wanted to comment on it since I've read all the other books in the series.

You could say I'm a bit obsessive-compulsive. Well, maybe more than just a bit!

Our female-sleuth of the series, Penelope Thornton-McClure (Pen for short) is the owner of the Quindicott, Rhode Island bookstore named "Buy the Book". She has a resident ghost, Jack Shepard, who is a former private investigator from New York City. He was gunned down in 1949 at the exact spot of Pen's bookstore, and now his spirit - while very willing- has never left.

This book finds Pen sponsoring another book signing, this one of an up and coming young author named Angel Stark. Angel has written a tell-all book about a debutante named Bethany Banks who was strangled to death.

Evidently Angel was a part of that crowd and had inside information about the murder, so she decided to capitalize on it by writing a book. Needless to say, the Banks family was not pleased.

Along the way a couple more murders are committed, and the young nephew of a friend is arrested. Pen decides to help him, but she knows she needs to improve her detecting skills. She asks Jack the Ghost for help, but he says she should let the police handle it.

But as we know, one of the traits of the amateur female-sleuth is stubbornness. So Jack reluctantly decides to help her. What choice does he have?

One of the more interesting characters in the book is named Fiona Finch. Fiona, along with her husband, runs the local Finch Inn. It's Quindicott's only bed & breakfast. Fiona loves to collect pins and brooches with bird designs. She often goes to several garage and yard sales to add to her collection. (Me, I just go to eBay or Bonanzle). Jack the Ghost calls Fiona the 'Bird Lady'. Fiona likes to help Pen solve her 'cases'.

The romance between Pen and Jack deepens. She can now see him, thanks to an old buffalo-head nickel of his that she found in her store. When she leaves the store, and takes the 5-cent piece with her, he can come along too. I like this part of the plot. It makes for an interesting read since Pen and Jack are becoming more of a sleuthing team.

You can buy the book here:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Done with “The Quick and the Thread” by Amanda Lee

In the middle of the night, I had a flash of inspiration and thought I had figured out what the message “Four Square Fifth W” meant. I find that I often figure things out or think of things in the middle of the night, and then desperately try to remember what it was the next morning. So I’ve taken to keeping a note pad and pen by the bed so I can scribble down a note or two. And in the morning I can even read what I wrote!

Anyway I found this book to be entertaining. Marcy is persistent in trying to find out both who killed Timothy Enright and what the mysterious message means. She goes by the old saying: “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”. If I were in Marcy’s shoes, I know I’d want to find out who the killer was before he or she put a final stitch in me!

You can buy the book here:

Friday, July 23, 2010

I Think I’d Choose Monk

Re: “The Quick and the Thread” by Amanda Lee

At one point Marcy gets sort of sleepy-punchy-silly and thinks about solving the mystery from the vantage point of TV sleuths. She envisions herself playing a part in each of the following TV series: Charlie’s Angels, Columbo, Kojak, Remington Steele and Murder, She Wrote.

After thinking about it for awhile, she decides to turn this case over to Psych or Monk. She even thinks she could blame Boss Hogg in the Dukes of Hazzard. But nobody could take Boss seriously as a murderer.

Personally I haven’t seen Psych or Kojak. I’d sure like to look like Kate Jackson. Pierce Brosnan would be easy on the eyes. But I think I’d rely on Mr. Monk to solve this case. I’ll make sure to have enough wipes on hand!

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book).

Monday, July 19, 2010

“The Quick and the Thread” by Amanda Lee

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book from author Amanda Lee. It’s the first in the series about female-sleuth Marcy Singer, and this title will be released on August 3, 2010. Best Wishes, Amanda!

Marcella (aka Marcy) Singer is an accountant living in San Francisco who yearns for yarn: she really wants to own an embroidery shop. Her current job is depressing. Until one day she gets a call from her former college roommate Sadie: the hardware store next to Sadie’s coffee shop has gone out of business, and Sadie thinks it would be the perfect opportunity for Marcy to open her dream store.

Sadie lives on the Oregon coast in a quaint little town called Tallulah Falls: quite a change from the hustle and bustle of the city by the bay. But Marcy decides to go for it, so she moves herself and her Irish wolfhound, Angus, up to Oregon.

Marcy names her shop ‘The Seven Year Stitch’ since she is a fan of classic movies. This name is a take on the Marilyn Monroe film “The Seven Year Itch” and Marcy even has a life-sized female mannequin next to her cash register that she’s dressed up with a short blond wig to look like Marilyn.

(Now I’m hoping that Marcy’s customer’s don’t think ‘The Seven Year Stitch’ refers to the length of time it will take to complete an embroidery project. I've known people who have taken that long to get their craft projects done!)

Soon opening day arrives and Marcy’s shop is full of customers purchasing supplies and signing up for classes. That same evening she has a grand opening party, and many of the townspeople are there including former proprietor Timothy Enright of the hardware store that used to occupy Marcy’s store.

He says he must speak to Marcy. But he is slurring his words so she thinks he is drunk and avoids him all evening. The next morning she finds the words “Four Square Fifth W” scratched onto a storeroom wall by a tapestry needle. The person who did that, Timothy Enright, is lying dead in her storeroom.

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book).

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Done with “Strawberry Shortcake Murder” by Joanne Fluke

Hannah solves the murder of Coach Boyd Watson with the help of her real-estate agent sister Andrea. Andrea is good with people while Hannah is good with facts and figures.

Hannah tells her sister that investigating is a process of elimination - that you must explore all the possibilities, and rule them out one by one. Whatever is left has got to be the solution.

Along the way Hannah relies on her former passion, English literature, to help her solve the case. I won’t say how at the risk of giving too much away, but we do find out more about the poet Lord Byron.

And when Hannah gets into a sticky situation, she uses her Grandma Elsa’s flour defense technique. It works.

Recipes included in this book are: Strawberry Shortcake Swensen, Apricot Bread Pudding, Oatmeal Raisin Crisps, Cocoa Snaps, Hawaiian Flan, Molasses Crackles and Chocolate Highlander Cookie Bars. Oh, I’m getting a sugar rush just typing this!

You can buy the book here:

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Soda, Pop or Soft Drink?

Re: “Strawberry Shortcake Murder” by Joanne Fluke

Hannah is hard at work solving this mystery. One evening her friend and sometimes date, Norman stops over at Hannah’s home to chat.

She asks if he wants something to drink and he says he’ll have a diet soft drink. She smiles and says most people in Minnesota say ‘pop’. Norman has lived on the west coast for many years so he uses a different phrase.

Several years ago when my family was traveling in Montana, we stopped at a restaurant and I ordered a 7-Up. The waitress wasn’t sure what I meant. There they call it: Bubble-Up.

I’m from the Midwest but I usually say I want ‘soda’.

What do you call it? Soda, pop, a soft drink, or something else?

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book).

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pretty, if She Wants to Be

Re: “Strawberry Shortcake Murder” by Joanne Fluke

Mothers want the best for their children. But sometimes moms go a bit too far in trying to help their kids.

Hannah’s mother Delores wants to see Hannah happily married. So she warns Hannah to stop finding dead bodies or all the eligible men will think she’s disaster-prone. Delores also tells her daughter that Hannah can be quite attractive if she sets her mind to it. To that statement Hannah replies ‘Give it a rest, mother’!

Hannah isn’t one to preen over herself in the mirror, unlike her mother. Delores is very careful about her appearance and never goes out in public without being meticulously groomed. And Delores won’t rule out plastic surgery to help her look her best either.

Hannah’s sister, Andrea, takes after Delores in both appearance and grooming. Andrea is petite and slender. Hannah however resembles her late father more, being taller, red-haired and prone to putting on a few extra pounds here and there. Especially since she has to taste-test new recipes for her bakery, The Cookie Jar.

So there have been instances of sibling rivalry in the past between the two sisters. Funny though - each sister felt the other one had the upper hand.

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

“Strawberry Shortcake Murder” by Joanne Fluke

This is the second book in the Hannah Swensen mystery series. Hannah is the owner and operator of a small Minnesota town bakery, The Cookie Jar.

The book opens to find Hannah helping to judge a local dessert baking contest. One of her fellow judges has a dental emergency, so they need a substitute. Boyd Watson, the local high school coach, is chosen.

During the judging, Boyd is none too subtle in his criticism of the desserts. Hannah tells him he could have been a little nicer to the contestants, but Boyd says there is no sense in sugar coating the message - if you don’t come in first, you are a loser.

Boyd is married and unfortunately Hannah has discovered a secret about him - he batters his wife Danielle. Danielle refuses to press charges against him, or leave him. After the bake-off, Hannah receives an urgent call from Danielle - could Hannah please come over to her and Boyd’s home right away?

Fearing Boyd has beaten Danielle again, Hannah fearfully rushes over. Danielle leads Hannah to their garage, where she sees Boyd lying on the floor in the gooey remains of the leftover strawberry shortcake. Hannah thinks the red splotches on the pavement are from the strawberries, but no, it’s blood. Boyd is dead.

Did Danielle kill him in self-defense? Or did a disgruntled bake-off contestant kill Boyd?

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Done with “A Dose of Murder” by Lori Avocato

Ack! Bejeebers! Those are two of Pauline’s favorite expressions and she uses them often while solving her first case of medical insurance fraud.

While inexperienced as a PI, she has lots of experience as a nurse. She obtains a temporary nursing position at a clinic where a lot of fraud has been committed. So she’s able to read medical charts and wonder why MRI’s were billed to the insurance company, but not ordered for the patient.

Unfortunately there are two murders along the way. Even though she is only being paid to work on the fraud case, she vows to find out what happened to the deceased and bring their killers to justice.

Along the way she meets a handsome man of mystery named Jagger. When she asks if that is his first name or his last name, he says it’s “just Jagger”. (Perhaps the author is a Rolling Stone’s fan?)

Jagger won’t tell her who he works for but she thinks it’s the FBI. He always manages to show up wherever Pauline is. And eventually he helps to save her life when her sleuthing leads her into danger.

I bought this book at a library book sale because I thought it sounded interesting. It was, but I didn’t think it was great. We get a lot of Pauline talking to herself - mostly about her attraction to Jagger. There are some other interesting characters too - Pauline’s roommate Miles and Pauline’s co-worker Goldie.

But I will be reading more Pauline Sokol mysteries as I bought several other books in the series. The book covers are colorful and I like that.

Friday, May 28, 2010

“A Dose of Murder” by Lori Avocato

This book introduces us to female-sleuth Pauline Sokol. She is thirty-something, single and lives in New England with a platonic male friend named Miles. She is totally burned out having spent many years as a nurse and so one day she decides to just quit. (Haven’t many of us had that fantasy?)

Of course her parents don’t understand this. They are a full-blooded Polish couple, married and living in the same house for over 40 years. Her father lovingly refers to Pauline as his little “paczi”. A paczi is a Polish donut and it sounds like ‘paunchki’.

I once worked with a Polish woman who brought us paczis for a treat. I don’t remember what they tasted like. Pauline tells us that it is a very large donut with prune filling. Perhaps there is a good reason why I don’t remember what a paczi tastes like!

Roommate Miles has a solution for Pauline - his uncle might have a job for her as an insurance investigator working with medical fraud cases. Her background as a nurse would help immensely, and Pauline discovers as her potential boss ogles her, her good looks guarantee she’s got the job. She would be like an independent contractor of sorts, setting her own hours and getting paid when the job is done. Of course she will need all the latest surveillance equipment like a really good video camera.

Pauline’s very first case involves a woman named Tina Macaluso who conned an insurance company out of over $33,000. In an odd twist of fate, Pauline knows Tina - they went to school together.

So this should be easy, right?

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book).

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Ultimate Crime

Does it bother us that we read murder mysteries? Sometimes it bothers me.

Even though most of what I read are cozy mysteries which are defined by a lack of graphic violence, we are still talking about the ultimate crime - murder.

Would the books be as interesting if we were reading about say, embezzlement? Probably not. As readers, and even as a society, I doubt we would care as much about finding the perpetrator in an embezzlement case. Especially if it happened to a large corporation - we might feel that they already have enough money. We might even sympathize with the criminal and say that company deserved it.

But it’s hard to sympathize with someone who has taken a life. We want this crime to be solved and the perpetrator punished.

So when we read these books, that is why we root for the female-sleuth - to find the ultimate solution to the ultimate crime.

Perhaps the bigger question is does reading about murder, playing games where characters are murdered, or viewing violent crime on TV and in the movies desensitize us as a society to murder?

The debate continues.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Done with “Hot Six” by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum uses her intuition to solve the case in “Hot Six”. She feels her woman’s intuition is the best thing she has going for her, as she says “I can’t shoot, I can’t run all that fast and the only karate I know is from Bruce Lee movies”.

She even gets to use a loaner car that a friend calls a “silver wind machine”. It’s a Rollswagen. The body of the car is an old Volkswagen Beetle, and the front of the car is an old Rolls-Royce. It’s color is silver with blue swirls and stars. Funny thing is, she doesn’t use the car all that much. Can’t say I blame her. It’s hard to be an unobtrusive bounty hunter when you drive a silver Rollswagen!

You can buy the book here:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Canine Garbage Disposal

Re: “Hot Six” by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie has agreed to watch somebody’s dog for a couple of days. The dog is part golden retriever and his name is Bob.

She soon finds out that Bob eats everything. One day Grandma Mazur was cleaning Stephanie’s cupboards. She left for a moment and Bob had eaten all the prunes, Frosted Flakes and marshmallows that were sitting on the countertop.

He also eats cake, cardboard boxes, pizza, furniture and car upholstery. In short, he’s a canine garbage disposal.

What Stephanie finds out a few days later is the dog’s owner never intended to return for him. So the joke is on Stephanie and she is stuck with Bob. But she doesn’t think it’s a joke, she is starting to like Bob and decides to keep him.

One night Stephanie asks her boyfriend cop Joe Morelli to dog-sit Bob for a couple of hours. She warns Joe to watch Bob, that he will eat everything.

Joe jokes that Bob should be made a cop, and asks what’s his liquor capacity.

Stay tuned for more posts about this book.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Just a Girl, Her Hamster and Her Grandma

Re: “Hot Six” by Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum lives in a one bedroom apartment with her hamster Rex. Rex lives in a little glass aquarium and is content with running on his exercise wheel and eating handouts of people food from Stephanie.

Stephanie’s grandmother is normally content to live with Stephanie’s parents - but not lately. Grandma Mazur has packed her things and headed for Stephanie’s apartment. It seems there was an argument between Grandma and Stephanie’s father, and now Grandma has come to live with Stephanie. Grandma claims she is going to learn how to drive and find her own apartment. Oh boy.

Grandma Mazur says she’ll sleep on Stephanie’s couch, but Stephanie feels bad about that so she offers her own bed to Grandma. Now Stephanie is sleeping on her own couch. I’d probably do the same thing if it was me.

After a few days of living with her grandmother, Stephanie notices some things. Like Grandma willingly eats dessert first, before the main meal. That never would have happened when Stephanie’s grandfather was alive. Things were very traditional then, and Stephanie wonders if her Grandma would have been different if she hadn’t married her Grandpa.

Would Grandma have eaten dessert first all the time?

Stay tuned for more posts about this book.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"Hot Six" by Janet Evanovich

When I got this book at a used book sale, my hubby asked what the title was. I said “Hot Six” and he looked at me with a raised eyebrow and a little smile on his face. I know he was thinking of substituting an “E” for the “I” in “Six”, but he didn’t say anything.

This was the first Stephanie Plum book I bought and I almost decided to give up on it after reading a few pages. I just didn’t get the humor. But then I thought I’d keep reading and I’m glad I did. It’s an entertaining book and series.

This book opens with Stephanie’s mentor (bounty hunter supreme Ranger) having been a no-show at his court date. A rookie cop who didn’t know any better arrested Ranger for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. If that wasn’t enough, an investigation of a fire in a downtown office building reveals a burned body with a bullet hole to the head, and a surveillance tape showing Ranger in the building shortly before the fire started. To complicate matters, the dead body is the son of an international arms dealer.

So there are a lot of people interested in finding Ranger, including Stephanie’s special friend and cop Joe Morelli. But Stephanie knows better than to try to find Ranger - he’s like the wind. He will find her when he needs to.

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

From Mystery Books News - Nancy Drew Celebrates 80 Years in Print

"Many news organizations (e.g. USA Today) are reporting on the 80th anniversary of the publication of the first Nancy Drew mystery, The Secret of the Old Clock by the pseudonymous Carolyn Keene, on April 28th, 1930. Grosset & Dunlap is celebrating by producing a special 80th Anniversary edition of the book. The series was originally created by Edward Stratemeyer, who was also the creative force behind The Hardy Boys among other series.

Nancy Drew has since been featured in hundreds of books, dozens of games, and several films. She is an industry unto herself!

Fifty-six books in the original series were published between 1930 and 1979, with the first 34 substantially updated and/or rewritten starting in 1959. An additional 119 titles (part of the so-called "Mystery Stories") followed until 2003. But in between there were also 124 books in the "Nancy Drew Files" series and 69 books in the "Notebooks" series, which featured a young Nancy Drew. This latter series was reimagined as the current Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew mysteries for young readers, while the teenaged Nancy Drew continues to solve crimes in the All New Girl Detective series. Nancy Drew is also featured in a separate series of graphic novels!

But for those who want to see how it all began, The Secret of the Old Clock is the place to start. Happy Anniversary, Nancy Drew!

About The Secret of the Old Clock (from the publisher): When the Topham family inherits all of Josiah Crowley's fortune, something isn't right about the whole affair. Josiah promised other friends and relatives that they would inherit. In Nancy's first case, she searches for a hidden will in order to help restore the inheritances to the rightful heirs. Being locked in a closet by robbers and a narrow escape with an old clock lead to Nancy solving this baffling mystery!"

Thanks to Mystery Book News for this interesting item!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Done with “Murder Most Maine” by Karen MacInerney

As Natalie searches for clues to the suspicious death of Dirk the trainer, she wonders why life is so complicated sometimes. The police have ruled the death a homicide. Her handsome boyfriend John is a suspect. The death occurred on her property, the Gray Whale Inn.

In her search, Natalie questions her relationship with John and starts to have doubts. He couldn’t have committed murder, could he? Many years ago, John had a summer fling with beautiful Vanessa, the leader of the weight-loss retreat. Is it over between John and Vanessa? Or does Natalie still have a chance at a relationship with him? She must find out.

Some of the guests at her inn seem suspicious to Natalie. There is Elizabeth, who claims to be a reporter. Is she, and why did Natalie see her coming out of Dirk’s room the day before his death?

The book answers these questions and more. We find out who the skeleton in the lighthouse belongs to, and why it was there.

One mystery goes unsolved though: why several residents of Cranberry Island saw a light flashing from the empty lighthouse one night.

The book also hints at some interesting dilemmas involving weight loss. Should people take supplements to speed up weight loss? Are the supplements safe?

Included with the book are recipes for pumpkin-pie oatmeal, chocolate meringues, teriyaki marinade, shrimp salad, turkey chili and mint dessert bars.

You can buy the book here:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

There’s a Skeleton in the Lighthouse

Re: “Murder Most Maine” by Karen MacInerney

When people say “there’s a skeleton in the closet”, it usually means someone is hiding something. Well Cranberry Island, Maine has just discovered a big secret - there’s a skeleton in the historic lighthouse.

The lighthouse had been boarded up for many years and recently the town decided to renovate so it would be done in time for tourist season. I’m sure they never dreamed they’d find skeletal remains inside.

Locals speculate that it’s Old Harry, one of the lighthouse’s first keepers. He would have worked there sometime during the 1800’s. Legend has it that Harry disappeared one night, washed out to sea during a fierce storm. Nobody ever found his body.

Natalie says she loves living in a place with so much history, but is sad that tragedy sometimes accompanies it.

Thinking about Dirk’s death, she hopes it’s just from natural causes. But then she realizes probably not since he was a health and fitness guru. She wonders if maybe Dirk saw the ghost of Old Harry, the missing lighthouse keeper, and was scared to death.

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book).

Monday, April 19, 2010

“Murder Most Maine” by Karen MacInerney

This is book #3 in the Gray Whale Inn mystery series featuring female-sleuth Natalie Barnes. Natalie is the owner of The Gray Whale Inn, a bed and breakfast set on the small Maine locale of Cranberry Island.

Natalie has been in business for about a year now and is trying to drum up new business for her inn. As the book opens, we find that she is hosting a week-long weight loss and exercise retreat. If all goes well as she hopes, she will not only fatten her bank account but trim her waistline by participating in the weight loss and exercise program herself.

The woman who runs the weight loss program is named Vanessa and she is no stranger to Cranberry Island, having spent several summers there as a young woman. Rumor has it Vanessa left a long line of broken hearts and several of the men she dated still reside on Cranberry Island.

Partnering with Vanessa is a hunky trainer named Dirk and he will be taking over the exercise portion of the program. Natalie notices that he is very good at handing out weight loss supplements and vitamins, and she hopes that these are safe for her guests. Natalie also notices how Dirk attracts the attention of several of her female guests.

It’s said that Vanessa and Dirk are more than just business partners - they are romantic partners as well. But Natalie wonders when her own boyfriend, John, is seen getting quite cozy with his former flame Vanessa. And Natalie can’t help but feel a bit jealous of the beautiful, slender Vanessa.

On the second day of the retreat, everyone is to gather for a morning hike up to Cranberry Island’s old lighthouse. Everyone shows up except Dirk. The group starts out and on the way, Vanessa discovers a body. Dirk’s body. He’s dead.

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book).

Friday, April 9, 2010

Done with “The Ghost and Mrs. McClure” by Alice Kimberly

I like this book. I like this series. I have one more book to blog about (#2) and then I’m caught up. That is, until the next book is released and I hope that will be soon.

After she and Jack the Ghost solve the mystery of what happened to Timothy Brennan, Pen tells him that she thinks they make a good team. And they should work together to solve Jack’s own murder! Given that it occurred in 1949, that’s going to be a tough order to fill.

You can buy the book here:

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hearing Voices

Re: “The Ghost and Mrs. McClure” by Alice Kimberly

Imagine one day hearing a voice inside your head and you don’t know whose voice it is, why this is happening to you or what’s going on. That’s what happens to Penelope the day that author Timothy Brennan visits her bookstore to sign his latest book.

At first Pen thinks the male voice is a heckler. But she slowly comes to realize that nobody can hear this voice except for her. And that somehow this ‘voice’ knows what she is thinking and can carry on a conversation with her, in her head!

How can this be explained? Pen wonders if she is delusional or going insane. The voice assures her she isn’t.

So Pen decides to go to the internet to further research her problem. She does a keyword search on ‘ghosts’ and ‘haunting’ and finds her way to a college’s Department of Parapsychology. After getting some interesting answers, someone tells her just to go with the flow and start talking to this ghost of hers.

She does, and he convinces her he’s for real. That is, as real as a ghost can be.

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book).

Monday, April 5, 2010

Shield of Justice

Re: “The Ghost and Mrs. McClure” by Alice Kimberly

One of the things Penelope has decided to do is to hold book signings at her bookstore to drum up more business. The very first author to agree to come and sign his book, “Shield of Justice”, is Timothy Brennan. “Shield of Justice” is the latest in a very popular series of novels about a New York PI named Jack Shield.

(In a very interesting twist, the fictional Jack Shield is non other than Jack Shepard, now the resident ghost at Penelope’s “Buy the Book” bookstore. PI Shepard and author Brennan had met in person many years before when Brennan was a reporter).

Brennan has written 19 Shield novels and has had two TV series spun off from the character. He is a very successful author. People love the Shield character so much that they have come to the book signing dressed as Shield in double-breasted gray suits and fedoras.

In addition to signing books, Brennan gives a speech in which he reveals that he is going to cease writing the fictional Shield novels and instead will work on a nonfiction book into the details of Jack Shepard’s last case. Needless to say, the audience is not happy with this news.

During Brennan’s talk, he becomes thirsty and is given a bottle of spring water to drink. He then gasps for air and collapses. His last words are “Jack Shepard - it can’t be - you’re dead!”

Did Jack the Ghost scare Brennan to death? Did Brennan die of natural causes? Or was it murder?

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book).

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Eternity in Cornpone Alley

Re: “The Ghost and Mrs. McClure” by Alice Kimberly

The ghost in this book has a name and it’s Jack Shepard. Former cop and WWII vet, last a street-wise New York City private investigator.

He came to Quindicott, Rhode Island in 1949 and never left. Well his body did, but his spirit didn’t. It now haunts a section of Penelope Thornton-McClure’s bookstore, Buy the Book.

Jack is less than thrilled at the prospect of spending all eternity in what he calls ‘cornpone alley’. Compared to the thrill of the big city, Quindicott is in his mind so un-sophisticated, back-water, hick and just plain not cool. So to pass time, when he’s not ‘sleeping’, he’s playing pranks on those unfortunate enough to invade his territory. Like moving objects from one place to another.

He even pulls a prank on Mrs. McClure, but she doesn’t become frightened. She keeps an even head to try to figure out what happened.

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book).

Thursday, April 1, 2010

“The Ghost and Mrs. McClure” by Alice Kimberly

I’ve been neglecting my reading and my blogging, which is unusual because I’ve started re-reading the first book in one of my favorite series. It’s called “The Ghost and Mrs. McClure”. The book is about a widow with a young son who, after the death of her husband, moves to a small town to buy a bookstore over the protests of her husband’s family.

What she soon finds out is that the bookstore is haunted by the ghost of a murdered private investigator from the 1940's.  He's like a character out of an old film noir movie.  Over the course of the series (five books so far) they become a crime-solving team and find themselves attracted to each other.  When she sleeps, he enters her dreams and pulls her into his world.  Of course that's from a time when men did all the talking - and she's a modern woman who has some talking of her own to do!

This series is inspired by the 1947 movie “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” starring Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison. (The movie was based on a 1945 novel of the same name). I watched this movie recently and having done so, it puts The Haunted Bookshop series into perspective. The movie is about a strong-willed widow who moves herself and her young daughter (played by Natalie Wood) into a sea-side cottage over the protests of her husband’s family. She soon finds out the cottage is haunted by the ghost of it’s former owner, a rough and rowdy sea captain. He respects her because she isn’t afraid of him, and eventually they too become attracted to each other. The movie received an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography and I can see why. It's very stylish.

In the preface to Alice Kimberly’s book, there is a quote from the novel where the ghostly sea captain says: “There’s a dimension that some spirits have to wait in till they realize and admit the truth about themselves”.

I imagine that’s what the Ghost in “The Ghost and Mrs. McClure” has to do too.

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

“The Case of the Missing Library Book”, Authored by Me!

Normally technology works well. And our county’s public library system is great with a wonderful on-line catalog system you can use to easily request items.

But this week there was a snafu that nobody was able to explain.

I usually drive to a library branch a few miles from our home. I like going to the library as they always have a ‘cheap cart’ containing books, CD’s and/or DVD’s for sale with the proceeds going back to the library. (Often I’ll buy something, read it and donate it back to the library again).

Our county library also has something called a Bookmobile that is like a converted city bus containing library items. Each week on a given day, the Bookmobile is at a designated spot around town. For us it’s each Tuesday from 4:30 to 5:30PM, and it’s an easy walk from our house, just a couple of blocks.

So as the weather has been great this March, I thought I’d request several items from the Bookmobile. To do that you just change a drop-down box on the computer form to indicate pickup at the Bookmobile.

But when I got to the Bookmobile, my items weren’t there. The librarian apologized and said she wasn’t sure what happened. She thought that since I registered at the brick & mortar library branch, my items were probably there. (But I registered over a year ago)....

I called the brick & mortar library branch today, all ready to drive over there and pick up my items. However nothing is there for me. Again, the librarian apologized and said the items should be on the Bookmobile.

Confused - going in circles...where’s my stuff?

I’m pretty disappointed since I requested a book about a fantastic female-sleuth that I’m anxious to start reading and blogging about. I guess I’ll have to wait awhile yet.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Done with “Through the Grinder” by Cleo Coyle

When Clare Cosi puts coffee beans through the coffee grinder, the bean is chopped into many tiny bits. Sometimes Clare feels like this is happening to her.

This book is well written and the ending was a complete surprise. I love it when that happens. There is nothing worse than figuring out ‘who done it’ long before you reach the end of a book, in my opinion. It makes for a very dull read.

Since this book is set in New York City, you get a lot of information about the city’s history and architecture. For example you find out about SoHo, the shortened name of a neighborhood in lower Manhattan SOuth of HOuston Street.

One part of the book I did not enjoy was when Clare’s sleuthing takes her to an art gallery called Death Row. Take a guess as to what kind of art is sold in this gallery. Before you go there, you need to have a shot of expresso. And author Coyle gives you some great recipes just for the occasion.

One thing I didn’t know is that you can use coffee to tenderize a steak by marinating it overnight, and there is a recipe in the book for how to do this. There are also tips for storing coffee to preserve it’s flavor.

I think I need to make myself a cup of coffee right now!

You can buy the book here:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Another Detective Is On the Case

Re: “Through the Grinder” by Cleo Coyle

Clare’s ‘Mr. Right’ has a name. It’s Bruce Bowman. They have been seeing each other and sparks are starting to fly.

But police Detective Mike Quinn thinks that Bruce is involved in the suspicious deaths of young women who have been to Clare’s Cappuccino Connection gatherings at the Village Blend coffeehouse. Quinn goes so far as to tell Clare to stay away from Bruce.

Clare likes and respects Quinn but wonders if his feelings for her are getting in the way of his being able to think objectively. After all, Clare and Quinn have been flirting with each other and he’s told her his marriage is on the rocks. Now she wonders if Quinn is jealous of her involvement with Bruce? As such she is determined to find some clues for herself as to Bruce’s guilt or innocence. So she puts herself on the case.

When she goes to Bruce’s house, she finds a way to access his computer, log in and read his emails while he is asleep. After doing so she’s convinced herself that he is not the killer.

But the question remains: who is?

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Something Doesn’t Sit Right

Re: “Through the Grinder” by Cleo Coyle

Clare and Detective Mike Quinn of the Sixth Precinct are friends. There is chemistry between them, although he is married and has two children.

So when two twenty-something year old women commit suicide, one by leaping in front of an oncoming train, and the other by jumping from the top of her building, Quinn comes to the Blend to investigate. Both young women were customers and died within weeks of each other. Clare doesn’t know much about either one since they have hundreds of customers visiting the Blend. Of course she is saddened to hear what happened.

Later Quinn tells Clare in private that he thinks something doesn’t sit right with these suicides. After searching their apartments and reviewing the cases, he thinks there might be more to it.

Like maybe these girls were murdered.

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book)

Friday, March 12, 2010

“Through the Grinder” by Cleo Coyle

This is the 2nd book in the Coffeehouse mystery series featuring female-sleuth Clare Cosi. Clare, who some say has coffee in her veins, is the manager of the historic Village Blend coffeehouse in Manhattan. Over the years the Blend has served coffee to famous artists, actors, playwrights, poets and musicians, as well as ‘ordinary folk’ - local workers, shoppers, students and visiting tourists.

These days the Blend is even getting involved in the local matchmaking scene. They are hosting something they call the “Cappuccino Connection”. As part of an outreach program for a local church, it’s a way for singles to meet other singles and make a connection over a cappuccino. Clare likes it because it brings in business for the coffeehouse.

The rules are everyone must make three connections. The ladies are seated at tables and the guys have five minutes to chat with them before they get up and move on to the next lady at the next table. (Sounds kinda like musical chairs, in a way). If they feel they’ve made a connection, they agree to meet again for a date.

Clare is not thrilled when her 20-year old daughter, Joy announces her intention of attending the next “Cappuccino Connection” night. So Clare decides she’s going to check it out to see what happens and secretly screen the men for Joy.

When you have 20 men you are meeting for five minutes apiece, it’s got to be tough to keep track of who is who. So Clare decides to take out her note-pad and write labels for each guy. Just like she used to when she helped her grandmother can fruits and vegetables each summer! She meets Mr. Slick, Mr. Jock, Mr. Freeloader, Mr. Wall Street, Mr. Superficial Artsy and Mr. Weirdly Intense Painter. Among others.

In the process, Clare is very surprised to find she makes a connection for herself. So what does she write in her note-pad for this guy? Mr. Right.

(Stay tuned for more posts about this book)

Friday, March 5, 2010

“High Five” by Janet Evanovich

It always takes me awhile to get back in the swing of things after a vacation. So finally, here is my blog post.

“High Five” is a re-read for me. I figure a Janet Evanovich book is pretty light-weight reading and would be good for vacation. I think this is one of the better books in the series.

This book finds bounty-hunter Stephanie Plum searching for her lost uncle, not as part of her bounty-hunter duties but because her family asks her to look into his disappearance. She says she’s not a detective and they should go to the police, but they specifically want her help. So she does and starts unraveling the clues as to what happened to him. She also attracts some unwanted attention in the meantime.

To earn a living, she goes after a few FTA’s (Failure to Appear) and continues her reputation as the ‘bounty hunter from hell’. She is a constant source of amusement to the police due to her unorthodox take-down methods.

This book finds her after a little person. She eventually hauls him in, but only after she breaks down his door (well, shoots it actually) and they fight while tumbling down the stairs. After he goes back to his apartment, he finds it’s been ransacked so he moves in with Stephanie temporarily. It’s either that, or sue her.

She is also being harassed by the former boxer, now turned wack-job Benito Ramirez. He first appeared in “One for the Money”. He’s out on parole and wants her to see what it will be like to be with a ‘real man’. Then he wants to bring her to God. Scary stuff.

Plus her relationship with her mentor, super bounty hunter Ranger turns into something more than just work as they become more attracted to each other. He puts her on the payroll of his company, gives her some work and provides her with company cars. Somehow she always manages to lose or demolish the cars.

It’s all in a day’s work for Stephanie Plum.

You can buy the book here:

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Back from Vacation

We took a one-week vacation to get away from the snow and cold, which we get very sick of by the end of February. Here in the U.S. we call it a vacation and I think other parts of the world call it a holiday. Any way you say it: vacation, holiday, time off: it sounds good to me!

We went to a place that has electricity, but we had no television and no computers at our lodge. There were also no telephones and no newspapers. Cell phones don’t work. Sound amazing? Yes, there is a place in the U.S. like this: it’s Death Valley National Park in southern California.

Many folks would go crazy not having these things available, but we didn’t mind. We were there to enjoy the beauty of the park. It’s a land of extremes. You can drive from below sea level to 5,000 feet above sea level in about 20 miles. It was one of the most spectacular drives we’ve ever done in a national park.

In case you are wondering why there is no cell phone reception, there are mountain chains all around the park.

It’s a lesson we need to re-learn from time to time. Humanity has accomplished so many things, but when all is said and done, nature will just about always win.

While we were gone, I read one book about a famous female-sleuth and I’ll talk about it soon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Katherine Heigl to Star as Stephanie Plum in the Film Adaptation of Janet Evanovich's One for the Money

I'm on the email list for Mystery Books news from It's a great site and I'd highly recommend it for current information on mystery books, authors, TV shows, DVD's and games.

This is from I post I received from them on February 10, 2010:

"Variety is reporting that Katherine Heigl (Grey's Anatomy) has been signed to star as bounty hunter Stephanie Plum in the film adaptation of Janet Evanovich's novel One for the Money. The screenplay was written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith (Legally Blonde, The Ugly Truth), with an update by Liz Brixius.

Evanovich has (to date) written 15 "numbered" books in the mystery series plus four "between-the-numbers" books, providing plenty of material for future films in the franchise."

I haven't seen any of Katherine Heigl's work but I'd be interested to see this film.

Done with “Dying for Chocolate” by Diane Mott Davidson

One of the characters in this book actually died for chocolate. I won’t say who. This is a well written book, and even though this is my second time reading it I didn’t remember who the killer was. That’s a good thing because it was a complete surprise to me.

Goldy has a tendency to get so wrapped up in her mysteries that she forgets to take care of herself and her son Arch. Good for the mystery, but bad for her and Arch. Her relationship with investigator Tom Schulz deepens. He cares for her and Arch and tries to watch out for them both.

The book also includes several of Goldy’s recipes for various salads, soups, entrees and desserts. Someday I'll have to try some of these recipes.

You can buy the book here:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Biscotti and a Body

Re: “Dying for Chocolate” by Diane Mott Davidson

Goldy is staying at the home of Adele and Bo Farquhar while a security system is being installed in her own home. Adele is the older sister of Goldy’s friend, Marla. Bo is a former general in the Army and is an expert in explosives. He even used some explosives when he planted a garden at his home. What must the neighbors think? I personally think using a shovel is a better way to dig up a garden!

General Bo asks Goldy to make biscotti for his and Adele’s anniversary party. She does and it’s a hit. What is also a hit is Goldy’s young son, Arch, who has prepared several magic tricks to perform at the anniversary party.

Later when the party is over, Goldy tries to unwind by reading in bed. She thinks she hears someone swimming in the Farquhar’s pool but decides to ignore whoever it is.

The next morning she goes out to get some fresh air and discovers a body. Police investigator Tom Schulz has some questions for Goldy about her new discovery. Goldy and Tom have been dating. He shares information with her another case he is investigating: her friend Philip Miller’s death.

I don’t think it’s common in the real world for the authorities to share such confidential information with their girlfriends. But this is the world that fictional female-sleuths live in, and so we can believe this information-sharing will happen.

(Stay tuned for more posts on this book).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

This cake looks yummy. I wonder if Goldy has a recipe for it?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Food for Love

Re: “Dying for Chocolate” by Diane Mott Davidson

Goldy’s next catering job is for the next-door neighbor who is trying to put some of the spark back into her marriage. Goldy works on the menu and calls it “Aphrodisiac Dinner for Six”. Included are oysters, shrimp dumpling soup, lettuce salad with tomatoes, avocados and mushrooms, chile relleno torta, lamb chops, zuchini, breads and last, but not least, a platter of assorted chocolate treats.

The client wants Goldy to wear a short, black and white lacy uniform while she serves. It looks like a French maid’s uniform dreamed up by Frederick’s of Hollywood. Goldy says NO, she will only cook, serve and clean up. She will not wear the caterer-as-a-centerfold uniform.

Goldy has done her research regarding the menu, so as she serves each course she discusses how food relates to love.

Author Davidson tells us about Aphrodite’s birth. Legend has it that Aphrodite was born on dry land in the crest of a wave. The word ‘aphros’ means foam. So any food item from the sea, Aphrodite’s birthplace, is supposed to have aphrodisiac-type qualities.

So that is why Goldy serves oysters first. They contain iodine, which is reputed to encourage a person’s libido.

Goldy finishes up the meal with a variety of chocolate goodies. Romantic lore commonly identifies chocolate as an aphrodisiac, and gifts of chocolate are a familiar courtship ritual. (info and photo from Wikipedia)

Another interesting tidbit that Goldy relates is that the word for love potion in Latin is “venenum” - which also means poison. This is very interesting. Is it because a person needs a love potion to fall in love with someone they wouldn’t normally fall in love with, and so they are ‘poisoned by love’?

(Stay tuned for more posts on this book).

Sunday, February 7, 2010

“Dying for Chocolate” by Diane Mott Davidson

Since Valentine’s Day is coming up, and with the emphasis many people place on eating chocolate this time of year, I thought I’d read a chocolate-themed or chocolate-titled mystery.

This is book two in the Goldy catering series. Goldy has moved her son and herself into temporary housing since her abusive ex-husband, John Richard Korman (AKA the Jerk) has been acting strangely. He’s been slowly driving by her house. He’s also been calling repeatedly and hanging up the phone when she answers. He has a history of physical violence towards Goldy, and she is afraid of him.

So now she is living at her friend’s sister’s home. It’s a mansion with a great security system. Goldy has become the family’s live-in cook while a security system is being installed in her own home.

This book opens with Goldy making and catering brunch for 60 people. She hates the thought of brunch because she thinks it’s a meal in between two other meals. Like you would eat breakfast, then brunch, then lunch. Sorry Goldy, but if I’m having brunch, I skip breakfast and lunch!

She’s been seeing a man named Philip Miller. They dated while she was in college and have gotten together again recently. Philip shows up at the brunch and asks Goldy to meet him at his office in town after she is done with her catering chores. She agrees, and later follows him in her car.

She notices Philip is driving erratically and thinks it’s odd because he was fine at the brunch. She honks her horn and motions for him to pull over, but he doesn’t. Then she is horrified to see Philip losing control of his car and crashing into an oncoming bus. He is killed.

(Stay tuned for more posts on this book).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

“The Moonstone Castle Mystery” by Carolyn Keene

I always enjoy a mystery that finds our female-sleuth exploring an old mansion or castle. So many secrets must be hidden in those walls!

This is book 40 in the Nancy Drew series, published in 1963. According to Wikipedia, the actual author of the book was ghostwriter Harriet Stratemeyer Adams.

There are two mysteries in this book. One involves a case that Nancy’s father, attorney Carson Drew is working on. Mr. Drew is asked to find a young woman named Joanie Horton because she is due an inheritance. Nancy and her friends are asked to help and so the case leads them to a town called Deep River.

The second mystery involves a moonstone that Nancy receives anonymously. While in Deep River, Nancy and her friends discover a castle named Moonstone Castle which comes complete with a drawbridge and moat.

As her investigation continues, Nancy begins to realize there is a connection between the two cases.

While reading this book, I wondered what a moonstone looks like so I found a few pictures:

Basically moonstones are classified as mineral gemstones of the feldspar variety. The stone has a milky, bluish color caused by the refraction of light from its thin, paired internal layers.

You can read more about moonstones at the

Friday, February 5, 2010

New Book from Kate Collins

I'm on the email list for Kate Collins' Flower Shop mystery books. I got this email a couple of days ago about her new book, "Sleeping With Anemone", and thought I'd share it here:

"A book makes a great Valentine gift, too!

There’s a killer out to get Abby. If only she knew which one....

Maybe Abby Knight shouldn't have chosen a home and garden show sponsored by Uniworld Food as the venue for her protest against the corporation’s harmful farming practices. But being bodily removed from the event won’t stop her campaign. Nor will a burning brick thrown through her flower shop’s window. After she narrowly escapes being kidnapped three times, Abby calls in the big guns-her ex-Ranger boyfriend Marco and her friends and family. And then the stakes are raised by murder…

On Sale Feb 2nd at bookstores everywhere!

See "Sleeping with Anemone" YouTube Book Trailer at:

The Flower Shop Mysteries:


*and coming October, 2010…

Happy Valentine's Day!
Bloomers Flower Shop
(Abby, Grace, and Lottie)

Read an Excerpt and see Abby's Flower Shop (Bloomers)"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Done with “Organize Your Corpses” by Mary Jane Maffini

I thought I had it figured out. I smugly told myself I knew ‘who done it’, but author Maffini wrote a very good mystery story and stumped me. Not once, but twice! I don’t want it to appear that I’m complaining - I like being wrong in this way. It makes for a really good, suspenseful read.

Charlotte Adams used her organizing skills to help her solve the mystery. She used the library. She made detailed, written lists. She also found herself on TV in some unflattering news footage that had nothing to do with her organizational business. But that’s beside the point.

Plus she loves chocolate and ice cream. Here’s another great tip from the book: “Buy good-quality chocolate. Eat it often”. Sounds good to me.

You can buy the book here:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Family Secrets and Skeletons

Re: “Organize Your Corpses” by Mary Jane Maffini

One of the first things Charlotte does is to attend Miss Henley’s funeral service. She is surprised by the tone of the funeral - it seems more like a happy occasion than a somber one. In attendance is Miss Henley’s last living relative, cousin Olivia.

Olivia had suffered brain damage due to a tragic accident that happened to her many years ago. She is now living in an institution. Charlotte wonders if Olivia could have killed her cousin, but Olivia herself is very wealthy and wouldn’t need the money from the Henley estate.

A few days after the funeral, Charlotte returns to the neighborhood where the Henley mansion is. She can’t get into the mansion, so she wanders around the area. She finds herself knocking on the door of elderly Rose Skipowski and asks if Rose knows anything about what happened to Miss Henley.

It turns out Rose knows much about the Henley family and proceeds to tell Charlotte what she knows. Soon Charlotte begins to delve into the family secrets and wonders what skeletons she may find there.

(Stay tuned for more posts on this book).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Death by Debris

Re: “Organize Your Corpses” by Mary Jane Maffini

Charlotte has a morning meeting with her new client, Helen “Hellfire” Henley. But when she gets to the old Henley mansion and knocks on the door, there is no answer. The door is open so Charlotte goes in. After several minutes of calling Miss Henley, Charlotte finds the woman lying on the floor under several layers of debris and rotted newspaper. Old Hellfire is dead.

Now Charlotte has to endure questions and more questions by the police. Mainly from a gal named Sgt. Pepper Monahan, who used to be Charlotte’s best friend. They had a falling out several years ago. Even so, Charlotte wonders why Pepper is enjoying interrogating her. Pepper says that foul play was involved in Miss Henley’s death.

Charlotte wonders who would want to kill Miss Henley, but as her friend Jack reminds her, Old Hellfire had tons of enemies. Mainly most of her former students whose lives were made into a nightmare by the teacher/tormentor.

Now Charlotte feels guilty because she accepted a large advance payment to find the missing documents Miss Henley wanted. Since she can’t get into the Henley mansion, she decides to figure out how Miss Henley died.

(Stay tuned for more posts on this book).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tell That to the Bag Boy!

Re: “Organize Your Corpses” by Mary Jane Maffini

I’ve found that several of these series have added bonuses. In addition to the story, we get recipes, tips and/or facts. For example, female-sleuth Lee McKinney works in her aunt’s chocolate shop so author JoAnna Carl includes several tips and facts about chocolate. Hannah Swensen owns The Cookie Jar bakery and author Joanne Fluke includes recipes, mostly for cookies.

In this book, our lady private eye Charlotte Adams is a professional organizer. So author Mary Jane Maffini has included a few helpful organizing tips for us readers.

My favorite tip (so far) says to “never place a large object over a smaller one”. Now you would think that would be common sense, but evidently not to the young high school age boys who have bagged my groceries. I can’t count the number of times I came home from one particular grocery store to have smaller and lighter objects crushed by bigger or heavier ones. Especially bread. You would think that the first lesson these kids would learn in Grocery Bag Packing 101 is DO NOT PUT THE CANNED ITEMS ANYWHERE NEAR THE BREAD!

My only hope is that someday these kids will be shoppers too and their bag boy will crush their bread. OK, that’s kinda harsh I know. But sometimes imagining a little payback helps as I try to fluff up my loaf of crushed bread.

And by the way - I no longer shop at that grocery store!

OK, enough ranting.

(Stay tuned for more posts on this book).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

“Organize Your Corpses” by Mary Jane Maffini

This is book one of the Charlotte Adams professional organizer series. I’ve never read this book, and I haven’t read anything by this author before. That said and 4 chapters later, I am enjoying it.

The book opens with Charlotte meeting a former schoolteacher of hers for a business appointment. The teacher’s name is Miss Helen Henley. Practically all of her students gave her the nick-name of “Hellfire” because she could make your life a living hell. (Haven’t we all had a teacher like that at one time or another?)

Miss Henley has just inherited the family mansion after the death of her cousin. Unfortunately her cousin has left so much stuff in the mansion that it’s hard to turn around. Wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor boxes of junk: papers and more papers, tools, building materials, household items, lamps, rags, tires, kitty litter, etc, etc! Some usable, most not. Charlotte notes the house is a disaster as well as being a fire hazard, and feels she has her work cut out for her.

Miss Henley believes there are some very important historical documents hidden amongst all the trash, and gives Charlotte just two weeks to get everything cleaned up and cleared out. Miss Henley asks Charlotte if she has done any of this type of work before: meaning searching for hidden documents, not organizing and cleaning up stuff. Charlotte says (to herself) that she’s read enough Nancy Drew books to help her figure it out!

(Stay tuned for more posts on this book).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Done with "Dead Pan" by Gayle Trent

At one point in this book, Daphne quotes a T-shirt slogan: “Better to have loved and lost than to live with a psycho the rest of your life.” It’s more than just a slogan to Daphne. She left her abusive husband and moved back to her hometown to start a new life for herself. She doesn’t wallow in self-pity and has a great sense of humor. Plus her sleuthing skills are pretty good too!

You can buy the book here:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Guinea Pigs

Re: “Dead Pan” by Gayle Trent

In ‘Dead Pan’ there are two kinds of guinea pigs.

The first kind are the animals. Daphne’s client Belinda owns several. Her cavies (as guinea pigs are also known) are prize-winning champions and Belinda treats them like kings and queens. She is planning a birthday party for one of her cavies and asks Daphne to bake for them. So Daphne finds a recipe for vegetarian biscuits for guinea pigs on the internet, makes a batch and the guinea pigs like them.

I found this picture of a couple of cute guinea pigs on

I’ve never owned a guinea pig. Have any of you? What are they like as pets?

The second kind of guinea pig refers to a test subject. Daphne finds out that Fred was a human guinea pig: that he was involved in some clinical drug trials to test new medications before they reach the mass market. Did these tests have something to do with his death, she wonders?

(Stay tuned for more posts on this book).

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cake Wrecks

Re: “Dead Pan” by Gayle Trent

Author Gayle Trent told me about this blog called
"Cake Wrecks".

The blog owner Jen says that “a cake wreck is not necessarily a poorly made cake, it can be any cake that is unintentionally sad, silly, creepy or inappropriate”. Check out some of them on her blog. Some bakers are quite imaginative and creative!

I like this one. I think they are missing a word:

(photo courtesy

I don’t think Daphne’s cakes will find their way onto this site. Her cakes sound absolutely scrumptious!

(Stay tuned for more posts on this book).

Friday, January 8, 2010

Investigating a Death

Re: “Dead Pan” by Gayle Trent

Unfortunately Fred Duncan dies and Daphne finds herself promising his mother she will look into his death. Of course Daphne’s sister doesn’t want her to, and Daphne says she won’t, but we all know our determined female-sleuths just can’t leave well enough alone. Daphne is no exception.

The criminal investigators determine that all the food served at the Christmas party was not the cause of the illness, so now the mystery is why people got sick so fast, and what did they get sick from? An antidote drug was given to everyone by a doctor at Brea Ridge Pharmaceutical. The drug had been tested in clinical trials and was successful. But why did everyone but Fred recover?

Daphne asks herself these questions, and more, as she starts to investigate Fred's death.

(Stay tuned for more posts on this book).

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dead Pan by Gayle Trent

This is book two in the Daphne Martin Cake Decorating series. Once again Daphne has to explain to an officer of the law that she only brought the cake. She has been contracted to bake a cake for the local Brea Ridge Pharmaceutical Company’s Christmas party. Unfortunately everyone in attendance became ill and suspicion falls on Daphne.

One person in particular becomes very, very ill and that is Fred Duncan. He works at the local supermarket where he and Daphne became acquainted. Fred is now in a coma.

Daphne’s neighbor and friend Myra thinks Fred is faking his coma, and proceeds to tell Daphne how she faked a coma by using sleeping pills. Myra wanted to get back at her husband for a fight they had and the sleeping pills did the trick, she said. Her husband became scared and took her to the hospital.

I personally don’t think that’s a very good way to make up after a fight!

(Stay tuned for more posts on this book).

Monday, January 4, 2010

Poll Results: To Read or Not To Read?

I recently had a poll up on this blog that asked the question:


These were the answers and the results:

Feel the need to continue, and so keep on reading because you think things will improve?
  8 (44%)
Just give up, cut your losses and move on to another series?
  9 (50%)
Don’t know - must give it some thought.
1 (5%)
(18 votes total)

So people were evenly split about continuing on or giving up, but the majority said they would give up. I’m in that situation myself with a couple of series, and I was wondering what other people would do.

I suppose it depends on how patient (or impatient) a person is. I always ask myself: “is this how you want to be spending your time?” The answer to that question usually determines whether I will read on, or not.

Thanks to everyone who voted.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

How to Create a Believable Amateur Sleuth

I ran across this interesting article on I’m not allowed to reproduce the article here, but I can provide a link to it.

The article provides tips to writers. I have no talent in that area, but I think it provides some interesting points for us readers too.

Here’s the link. I hope you enjoy the article.

From How To Create A Believable Amateur Sleuth