Friday, May 22, 2015

Spotlight - Off Kilter

Today I'd like to shine a spotlight on on Off Kilter by Hannah Reed, the first in the Scottish Highlands Mystery series. This book on my actual TBR pile. (Meaning I actually own the book and am waiting to read it as opposed to just wanting to read it; that's my even larger virtual TBR pile!)

From the back cover:

A brand new series from a national bestselling author Hannah Reed, in which a young American writer finds herself swept up in a murder amid the glens and lochs of the Scottish Highlands...

After the recent death of her mother and the dissolution of her marriage, thirty-something Eden Elliott is seriously in need of a fresh start. She decides to embark on an open-ended trip to the picturesque village of Glenkillen in the  Scottish Highlands to do some hands-on research for a novel she's writing. But almost as soon as Eden arrives in the quaint town, she gets caught up in a very real drama...

The town''s sheep shearer is found murdered-clipped with his own shears-and the locals suspect Vicki MacBride, an outsider whose father's recent death left her the surprise heir to his lucrative sheep farm. Eden refuses to believe the affable heiress is a murderer. but can she prove that someone is out to frame her new friend before she finds herself on the receiving end of more shear terror?

Although I haven't yet read Off Kilter, I lent it to my mom who said she really enjoyed it!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading The Case of the Killer Divorce by Barbara Venkataraman. This book is the second in the Jamie Quinn Mystery series. Jamie Quinn is back in the saddle, happy to be a family lawyer again. As such, however, she tends to see the worst in people and her current case is a prime example. The wife, Jamie's client, is either a withdrawn zombie or a raving lunatic threatening her, hopefully soon to be ex, husband. Needless to say when the husband is found dead, the wife becomes prime suspect. Once again, Jamie finds herself in the midst of a criminal case, although this time around she already has the right friends around to lend professional assistance. On a more personal front Jamie is making strides in finding her father-a man she never met.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Tell-Tail Interview and Giveaway

I'm delighted to welcome Monica Shaughnessy to Cozy Up With Kathy. Monica writes the Cattarina Mystery series which features Edgar Allen Poe's cat, Cattarina.


Kathy: I'm excited that The Tell-Tail Heart is written from a feline point of view. Why did you decide to let Cattarina tell the story instead of a human?

MS: I adore books written from the animal perspective, Watership Down and The Art of Racing in the Rain, to name a few. These stories wouldn’t be half as compelling if told by human narrators. When I first hit upon the idea for the Cattarina Mysteries, I briefly toyed with writing from the perspective of Edgar Allan Poe. And then I really thought it through. This filled me with more dread than “The Tell-Tale Heart”! How could I possibly access the mind of a literary genius? No, I thought it much safer to stick to Cattarina.


Kathy: I've always been fascinated by Edgar Allen Poe. I remember visiting his home in Philadelphia when I was young. How did you choose him to be central to the Cattarina Mystery series?

MS: Writers and cats go together. So when I was mulling over different ideas for a cat cozy series, I thought about famous authors, specifically mystery authors. When I found out that Mr. Poe owned a tortoiseshell, everything clicked into place. It also helps that his work is in the public domain, so there’s no copyright conflict when quoting his old works. And really, Edgar Allan Poe is a fascinating character.


Kathy: I always felt bad for Edgar, suffering such tragedy in his life. I'm glad he has a cat to watch out for him in your series. Did Edgar Allen Poe have a cat? Is Cattarina based on that cat, another real cat, or is she purely fictional?

MS: Oh, yes. He truly owned a tortoiseshell cat named Cattarina. That’s what made writing (and researching) the book all the more interesting. In one letter home, he referred to her as “Catters,” a nickname I use in my book. Frustratingly, I’ve found at least three spellings of her name throughout historical documents. So I picked the one I liked the most.


Kathy: I've heard lots of paranormal things about Eastern State Penitentiary. Have you seen any ghost hunting television shows featuring it? Have you been there yourself?

MS: I love ghost-hunting shows, even though I’ve heard many of them are faked. I’ve also been on ghost tours, including the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park (the setting for The Shining), the St. Augustine lighthouse, and the Del Coronado Hotel in San Diego (where the bathroom light flipped on all by itself - twice). I’ve never been to Eastern State, but when I go to Philly, that will be my second stop. The first, of course, will be to Mr. Poe’s house.


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

MS: I like all kinds of mysteries. But I have a special place in my heart for cozies since I grew up reading Agatha Christie novels in high school. In fact, I still read them. Though I’m strictly a Poirot girl. None of that Miss Marple stuff for me! In fact, Cattarina reminds me a little of Poirot—fastidious and arrogant. J


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

MS: Lots. This gets me into trouble because readers don’t know what to make of my books. I’ve written young adult, middle grade, and a picture book. Up next? A collection of horror suspense stories. But they’re all decidedly weird. So I guess that unifies them.


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

MS: The Cattarina Mysteries follow Cattarina, Edgar Allan Poe’s cat, as she solves mysteries and inspires great literary works. The first, The Tell-Tail Heart, is loosely based on “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The second, The Black Cats, reveals secrets behind “The Black Cat.” The third book is The Raven of Liberty (June release). You can probably guess the inspiration behind this one! The collection also contains “To the River,” a short story about Cattarina’s kittenhood and Mr. Eakins’ Book of Cats, an illustrated companion to The Black Cats. Whew, I’ve been busy!


Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

MS: I think my favorite character is Virginia Poe, Edgar Allan Poe’s wife. She was a child bride and came down with consumption at an early age, so she never got a chance to do much “living.” This helped me tremendously when writing her character. I imagine she felt pretty useless at times, living in the shadow of a famous husband.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

MS: I tried the traditional route for the longest time. Even with the help of two different agents, I never found the right publisher. So in 2012, I finally indie published my young adult novel, Season of Lies (another talking animal book). When I completed The Tell-Tail Heart, I didn’t even think about “old skool” publishing. I uploaded it straight to Amazon (after editing, of course). I still think about the traditional route from time to time. But indie publishing has been great.


Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

MS: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain. The conversation would be fabulous, and I’m fairly certain there would be a food fight.


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

MS: Right now, I’m reading Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements. It’s a collection of non-fiction essays about the periodic table and not as boring as it sounds. I’m also starting Gone Girl. I think I’m the last person on the planet who hasn’t read it yet. Shhhhhh. I still don’t know “who dun it” even though it’s been made into a movie. Every time my husband starts to talk about it, I plug my ears and sing, “Nah, nah, nah…I can’t hear you…”


Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

MS: I love to travel. We own an Airstream travel trailer and drag it everywhere—Key West, the Grand Canyon, Washington DC, you name it. I also collect vintage cookbooks. When I come across a rare vegetarian cookbook, I snap it up. (I’m a vegetarian.)


Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

MS: Fage Greek yogurt, La Croix sparkling water, Think Thin protein bars, and cheese…lots and lots of cheese.


Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

MS: Once I finish the third book in the Cattarina Mysteries, The Raven of Liberty, this concludes my series. After that, I’m moving on to a short story collection and then another mystery project, a serialized novel.


Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

MS: I tend to highlight different thematic elements in my stories. For instance, in my short story, “The Trash Collector,” I explore the subject of bigotry and narrow-mindedness. It’s gratifying when a reader clearly “gets” the point of my story and says so in a review. It means I’ve done my job as an author.



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The author has graciously donated an e-copy of The Tell-Tail Heart to one of my readers. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment on this post telling us yoru thoughts about Edgar Allen Poe. Leave your comment no later than Thursday night, May 21, 2015 at 11:59 PM EDT to be entered. Be sure to leave your e-mail address as well so that I may contact you, should you win!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bite the Biscuit: Interview, Review, & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Linda O. Johnston back to the blog! You may have read our interview regarding her new Superstition Mystery series. Today we're going to talk about her second brand new series, the Barkery and Biscuits Mystery series. Bite the Biscuit, the first book in the series, was just released earlier this month.


Kathy: In Bite the Biscuit Carrie Kennersly converts a bakery into the Barkery where she makes and sells dog treats. Is the Barkery based on a real bakery for animal treats, or is it purely fictional?  

LOJ: The Barkery is entirely fictional, although I'm seeing more and more stores open that are all about creating fresh and healthy food and treats for dogs right on their premises.  There are even chains of dog bakeries with stores popping up various places.  People obviously love to feed their dogs good stuff!


Kathy: Do you bake treats for your dogs? Do you buy them treats from a canine bakery?

LOJ: I unfortunately don't bake treats for my dogs, although I do buy fresh treats sometimes from dog food stores for my older dog, Lexie, who loves them and orders me constantly to take her outside so she can get a treat when she comes in again!  My younger dog, Mystie, is on prescription food from her vet, and I don't want to try her on anything new for fear of causing a flare-up of her tummy issues.


Kathy: I absolutely adore the cover of Bite the Biscuit. Did you have any input in the design?

LOJ: I do get input into the cover design, which is fun.  I'm sent an initial rendering and then can say if I'd like any changes, which are incorporated into the final.  I love the cover of Bite the Biscuit, too!


Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for this series?

LOJ: Not specifically, other than my love for dogs and cozy mysteries.  The main general inspiration for this series and my others is my always active imagination.  


Kathy: Are you able to share any future plans for Carrie?

LOJ: Fortunately, Carrie's Barkery and bakery are big successes so she can hire more assistants.  She continues to enjoy having her dog Biscuit hang out at the Barkery with her, too.  On the whole, she's going to continue to spend her time mostly at her entrepreneurial ventures and also remaining a part-time veterinary technician because she loves it.  And, yes, unfortunately for Carrie, additional murders crop up around her.


Kathy: Your mysteries have a distinctly canine focus. Why are dogs so important?

LOJ: I adore dogs and always have!  It's fun for me to feature them in my stories.  Dogs are members of the family and always there for people, so why not feature them in situations where they also fictionally help their humans?  


Kathy: I too am an animal lover and supporter. While I love dogs, I am currently dogless and am more focused on my cats and rats (with a shout out to my horse, Harley, who often gets left out of my mystery animals talks). Was there something that made you such an animal advocate? Do you have suggestions for readers on how they can help pets? 

LOJ: As I said, I've always loved dogs.  I'm a bit of a hypocrite because I've been owned by one breed, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, for a very long time, but I do advocate people adopting rescue dogs.  I started volunteering at a local shelter when I was researching an earlier mystery series, my Pet Rescue Mysteries, and learned a lot more about how people can help to prevent so many dogs winding up in shelters instead of loving homes--including by spaying and neutering.  Also, as much as I consider dogs to be family members, I recognize that not everyone does, and in those instances they shouldn't adopt, in my opinion, since the dogs are more likely to wind up in shelters.  At least there are quite a few private shelters these days that take good care of the dogs and other pets they bring in until they do find them loving homes, since, unfortunately, public shelters do wind up killing a lot of animals because they have no room to keep them. Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now but I do wish people thought things through more in their treatment of pets.
And hugs to your cats, rats and Harley!


Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?

LOJ: Yes!  I have two other books coming out this year.  The first, Canadian Wolf, is a Harlequin Nocturne paranormal romance that happens to feature dogs... and werewolves!  It will be out in September.  The next is Knock on Wood, my second Superstition Mystery for Midnight Ink, which also publishes my Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries.  It'll be an October release. Yes, the Superstition Mysteries feature dogs, too, since my protagonist manages a pet boutique in the town of Destiny, California, which is all about superstitions!  And I'm also working now on the second Barkery & Biscuits Mystery which will be out around May next year.
Thanks for having me here!

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Review

Bite the Biscuit by Linda O. Johnston
The First Barkery and Biscuit Mystery

Carrie Kennersly loves her job as a veterinary technician in the small town of Knobcone Heights, but when the opportunity presents itself to own her own business, Carrie takes the plunge. While still working part time as a vet tech, she has just taken over her friends bakery and converted it into 2 stores: Icing, a bakery for people, and the Barkery, a bakery for pets! Her grand opening is going well, until Myra Ethman and her husband, owner of the town's pet store, enter spewing venom about Carrie's hand made dog treats and threatening to close her business down. The couple refuse to leave and Carrie finally tells the crowd that she'll find a way to keep Myra quiet! The next morning Carrie awakes to the news of Myra's murder and discovers she's the prime suspect! 

Linda O. Johnston brings her love of animals to another new series with  Bite the Biscuit. I truly enjoyed my time in Knobcone, California. Carrie is a down to earth character who has an adorable dog and two wonderful careers. The author introduces a few romantic possibilities, but Carrie wisely puts those ideas on the back burner as she juggles her new shop and employees, her old job, as well as her friends and family. The focus is more on solving the mystery and any romantic entanglements are secondary. 

As for the mystery, Linda O. Johnston gives us a victim we dislike and plenty of suspects with motive. Bite the Biscuit gave me clues, red herrings, and lots of detailed characterization which had me puzzling over the suspects. Since the author also had me craving baked goods, I'm pleased to say she also included recipes for both humans and dogs.



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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Currently Reading...

I just started reading Death by Didgeridoo by Barbara Venkataraman. This book is the first in the Jamie Quinn Mystery series. Death by Didgeridoo is a short book, more of a novella, that introduces Jamie Quinn, a lawyer who practices family law. Jamie is still reeling from the death of her mother when her aunt calls pleading for help. Jamie's cousin Adam has just been arrested for murder! Will Jamie, who knows nothing about criminal law, be able to help?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Living History Museum Interview & Review

I'm so happy to welcome Amanda Flower back to Cozy Up With Kathy. Amanda has visited previously talking about her Amish Quilt Shop Mystery series, Appleseed Creek Mystery series and her Andi Boggs Novels. Today we talk about her brand new series, The Living History Museum Mystery series.


Kathy: With The Final Reveille, you start a new series. While your previous mysteries have centered around Amish communities the Living History Museum Mystery series does not. Was there a reason for this departure?

AF: I wrote the proposal for The Final Reveille before my two Amish series sold. The Amish novels sold very quickly, and the Living History Museum Mysteries had to be put on hold. I'm thrilled to be finally writing it.


Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for this series?

AF: Yes. When I was in college, I worked at a living history museum for one summer. I knew it was the perfect setting for a cozy mystery.


Kathy: I've always loved the idea of time travel. I'm pretty much come to grips with the fact that while I can't "really" go back in time I can "sort of go back in certain time periods" with the help of living museums. I'm fortunate in that I have the Genesee Country Village and Museum close by so that I can easily take a trip to a 19th century American village. How did you decide to make a living museum the scene for your new mystery series?

AF: I have been waiting to write a cozy set at a living history museum even since I work at one. Finally, I got the chance when Midnight Ink bought the idea.


Kathy: Is Barton Farm based on a real living museum?

AF: Nope, but it's based on several that I know.


Kathy: Do you have a favorite part of a living museum? For me it's a toss up between seeing the animals and trying my hand at some sort of craft as well as seeing anything about the Shakers or any other 19th century Utopian society or religious group-a particular interest of mine.

AF: I like to see the people in period dress and the ones who refuse to break character no matter what. That's dedication to your work. You will see some instances of that in the series.


Kathy: Civil War reenactments are quite popular. Have you ever attended one?

AF: I have. I have been to several reenactments and find them so interesting. It's an fascinating hobby to be sure.


Kathy: Are you able to share any future plans for Kelsey?

AF: Yes, Kelsey will be back in two more novels. Book two, The Final Tap, releases May 2016 and centers around the maple sugaring season in Ohio. I'm not sure what book three will be yet.


Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books?

AF: Sure! I have three books coming in October 2015. My upcoming books are:

Murder, Plainly Read, Amish Quilt Shop Mystery #4 written as Isabella Alan

Andi Unstoppable, Andi Boggs #3, a mystery for kids

An Amish Christmas at North Star, a four part anthology that includes a novella by me

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Review

The Final Reveille by Amanda Flower
The First Living History Museum Mystery

Kelsey Cambridge is the director of Barton Farms, a living history museum in Ohio. For the past two years Kelsey, who lives on the farm with her father and young son, has brought new ideas, and increased crowds to the museum with the financial help of benefactress Cynthia Cherry. Things become worrisome when Maxwell Cherry, Cynthia's son, who has no interest in history and thinks donating to the museum is a waste of time, tells Kelsey that his mother is ill and he'll be taking over her foundation's charitable work...and will stop funding the museum. As if Kelsey doesn't have enough to worry about with the current Civil War reenactment on museum grounds! Things get worse when Maxwell's body is found in the village and Kelsey becomes prime suspect in his murder. Searching for answers to clear her name Kelsey also faces her ex-husbands threats over custody of their son, a suspicious Civil War medic, a detective who seems to have it out for her, and several people who had cause to murder the unpleasant Maxwell Cherry!

This book is the first in the Living History Museum series and it's off to a great start. I love living history museums and am lucky enough to have the Genesee Country Village and Museum nearby. So I was thrilled to see this new series. Amanda Flower has captured the ambiance of living history museums with her docents who stay in character (even with annoying teenagers trying to get them to break character), the featured activities of the town ( I'd like to make a brick), and the added excitement, and trials, of having civil war reenactors about! Not only that, she has crafted a finely tuned mystery. We have interesting suspects and I enjoyed not knowing quite who to trust.

Amanda Flower combines a love of history and the importance of family into a fresh mystery novel complete with engaging characters and interesting facts set against a background of 19th century living in a 21st century world.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Oh Fudge! An Interview & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Nancy Coco to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Nancy pens the Candy Coated Mystery series. Oh Say Can You Fudge is the third book in the series and was just released April 28th.


Kathy: You write your Candy Coated Mystery series under the name Nancy Coco. I must ask-is Coco used to remind readers of cocoa, and consequently chocolate and fudge?

NC: Yes, actually the pen name was created for that purpose and we thought it was a cute reminder. It's always good to have fun with everything you do. Don't you think?


Kathy: Setting is so important, especially in a cozy series. How did Mackinac Island come to be the location of the Candy Coated Mystery series?

NC: I grew up in Michigan and we traveled over the Mackinaw bridge to vacation in the upper peninsula in the summers. My mom knew the area very well and I thought it would be the perfect setting for a cozy series. I contacted The Island Book store and was surprised that they didn't have a series set there. So we ran a contest with their readers on what the protagonist of the series should do and Fudge maker was number one. That was how the series was born.


Kathy: I love fudge. I make my own at Christmas time, but happily buy it from other locations through the year, especially those unique flavors. Do you have a favorite fudge flavor? Is there one you always have to have or do you prefer variety?

NC: I love fudge, too! Oh I could never pick a favorite fudge flavor. Every time I go into a candy store and see a new flavor I have to try it. I get a lot of my recipe ideas from people. They tell me, "I'd love to try a fudge with pepper in it or key lime" and so I create a fudge. The 21 and over fudges came from a request for fudge made with Captain Morgan rum. The recipe with the best reaction from my taste testers was the pecan pie recipe in Oh Say Can You Fudge- people were fighting over the crumbs.


Kathy: Oh Say Can You Fudge is set around the Fourth of July. Although I don't really celebrate Independence Day now, when I was a kid the 4th of July was a big deal. I remember picnics, parades, and fireworks. Do you celebrate this holiday? Have those celebrations changed since you were young?

NC: Yes, I love the holiday. Picnics and fireworks. When we were young we'd get to stay up late to watch the fireworks and to play with sparklers. My own children loved the screaming chicken fireworks that I wrote about in the book. It's a fun time.


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

NC: I loved "Murder She Wrote" and was always an avid fan of traditional mysteries. I had the pleasure of studying mysteries for my Master's program and I learned a lot from great cozy authors like Victoria Thompson who writes the Gaslight series.


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

NC: Yes, I wrote a couple of sweet historical romance series that are still available on Amazon.


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

NC: Oh, gosh, Okay - I write the Kensington Candy-Coated series as Nancy Coco. It's a fun series set on the Island Time forgot - where there are no cars allowed and people walk, bike or take a horse drawn taxi around the island. Then I write the Gluten-free Baker's Treat mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. This fun series is set in OilTop, KS. The protagonist is running a gluten free bakery in the middle of wheat country, managing her huge, nosey family and trying to rebuild her life after her divorce. My favorite character in that series is Toni's Grandma Ruth based not so loosely on my own Grandma Ruth. I also write a third series- the Perfect Proposal series for Berkley Prime Crime. In this series, Pepper Pomeroy runs a proposal planning business and finds that sometimes love is complicated by murder.


Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

NC: No- no favorites. I love them all. They are family to me.


Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

NC: My mother inspired the Candy coated series. The gluten-free series was inspired by my own diagnoses of celiac disease and the trouble I had finding good gluten free baked goods and Julie Hyzy inspired the Perfect Proposal series.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

NC: The most magical thing about writing is sharing it with readers. Something happens when I pull a story out of my mind and you recreate it in yours. There's a connection and a magic in the process that I adore.


Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

NC: I would be honored to meet: Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Margaret Atwood and Laura Ingalls Wilder What are you currently reading? I follow drusbookmusing.com - she lists all the newest cozies and I try to read them all.


Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

NC: I love to bake and make candy and read and paint and hike and I have a sock making kit, but I've not opened it yet.


Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

NC: butter, eggs, honey and cocoa.


Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

NC: Yes, I'm working on book four in the Candy coated series, book three in the Perfect Proposal series and book one in a brand new series to be announced.


Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

NC: Sharing the stories in my head. :D

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