Friday, July 25, 2014

Review - A Potion to Die For

Review

A Potion to Die For by Heather Blake
The First Magic Potion Mystery

A Potion to Die For is a fun read that kept me up way past my bedtime, even though I had to get up early!

Heather Blake writes a fast paced story for this, the first in the Magic Potions Mystery series. It starts with a mob chasing Carly Bell Hartwell, careens through various wacky characters, includes two wild car rides, and ends with me pushing on to finish as I had to know the ending.

The characters are fresh and funny, but there is a depth to these characters as well. I want to know more about them. A perfect example is Delia. When she first made the scene I thought, "OK, here's the nasty character that's going to make all sorts of trouble and is going to annoy me". Delia may be dark to Carly's light, she may cause problems, but I like her. There's a lot more to her than the stereotypical nemesis and even Carly comes to that realization. Plus, Delia has Boo!

If you're looking for a fun, fast read you need look no further. A Potion to Die For is perfect for whatever ails you!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Currently Reading...

It's been a very busy week for me, with, sadly, little time for reading. Therefore, I'm still reading Scene of the Climb by Kate Dyer-Seeley. I am also thoroughly enjoying the story. The new journalist at an extreme sports magazine, Meg has padded the adventure experience part of her resume, and is soon forced to demonstrate her skills on a hike. No easy stroll through the park, the hike spirals downhill when a loud mouthed competitor winds up dead.

Although our protagonist, Meg, is quite young (a recent college graduate) I can still relate to her and enjoy learning more about her and her take on the murder investigation. I also love Gam and hope she takes an even larger role.

Adventure tips and scenic tour included.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Spotlight - Buried in a Bog

I'd like to shine a spotlight on a book that's on my TBR pile. I own it and the second in the series, but haven't had a chance to read it yet! Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly is the first in the County Cork Mystery series.

From the back cover:

New York Times bestselling and Agatha Award-nominated author Sheila Connolly introduces a brand-new series set in a small village in County Cork, Ireland, where buried secrets are about to rise to the surface...

Honoring the wish of her late grandmother, Maura Donovan visits the small Irish village where her Gran was born-though she never expected to get bogged down in a murder mystery. Nor had she planned to take a job in one of the local pubs, but she finds herself excited to get to know the people who knew her Gran.

In the pub she's swamped with drink orders as everyone in town gathers to talk about the recent discovery of a nearly half-century-old body in a nearby bog. When Maura realizes she may know something about the dead man-and that he might be connected to another, more recent, death-she's afraid she's about to become mired in a homicide investigation. Maura has a sinking feeling she may really be getting in over her head...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Trip Back to the Jazz Age & Contest

I'd like to welcome Ellen Mansoor Collier to the blog today. Ellen writes the Jazz Age Mystery series. Gold-Diggers, Gamblers and Guns is the third and most recent addition to the series.


Kathy: Gold-Diggers, Gamblers and Guns is considered a soft-boiled mystery inspired by actual events. How did you come across the actual events?

EMC: While doing research, I was amazed to discover that Galveston’s Bathing Girl Revue evolved into the Miss Universe pageant, attracting bathing beauties from all over the world. The promoters wanted to compete with Miss America in Atlantic City so they decided to one-up that pageant and turn their contest into an international competition. Hard to believe that these young women—all in their teens to twenties, many of whom couldn’t speak English—had traveled so far to a tiny island, then population 50K, to seek fame and fortune. I turned that premise, with a twist, into BATHING BEAUTIES, BOOZE AND BULLETS.


Kathy: As part of the Jazz Age Mystery series, Gold-Diggers, Gamblers and Guns is a historical mystery which requires some amount of research. What is your favorite research method?

EMC: I’m very visual and really enjoyed watching old movies to study the settings, styles and period detail of the 1920s. The snappy dialogue, slang and mannerisms seemed so over the top that the characters were almost like caricatures—but that’s how people really talked and behaved, at least in the movies. Luckily I found actual clips of Galveston’s Bathing Girl parade on YouTube showing how the girls perilously stood in open cars with little support, which I described in BATHING BEAUTIES. So dangerous! During the parade, tourists milled around the Seawall, walking between the cars, and the poor beauties had to hold on for dear life.

I also like to peruse old magazines, newspapers and photographs to get a feel for the era. One of my favorite ways to research is browsing at antique malls or shows and seeing vintage clothing, hats and shoes on display, and examining the old appliances and equipment they used then. Besides being a great history lesson, it’s a perfect excuse to go antique shopping! LOL


Kathy: Jasmine Cross is stuck between the world of gossip and glamour and the world of gangsters and and gamblers. If you had a choice, which world would you be in?

EMC: I’d like to do some of both since I think both worlds are fascinating in their own way. I’m intrigued by the criminal element—but only from a safe distance. That’s why I enjoyed freelancing for a variety of magazines, so I could explore different topics, meet interesting people and learn new things. I’ve interviewed all types of people, from garbage collectors to semi-celebrities, including Nancy Brinker and Suze Orman.


Kathy: Do you gamble (legally, of course-wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more)? If so, what games of chance do you prefer to play?

EMC: My idea of gambling is going to Vegas, sitting close to a band and playing nickel slot machines. Sometimes I even splurge on the quarter slots if it gets me closer to a good band. LOL I love the people-watching aspect in a casino, especially while they play Black Jack or poker.

Personally, I’d rather invest in a vintage purse or piece of jewelry than gamble. That’s where my research comes in!


Kathy: When I lived in Texas I visited Galveston and enjoyed my time there. What is your favorite thing to do on the island?

EMC: How cool! When did you live in TX? I enjoy sitting or walking on the beach, but when it’s hot, we prefer eating seafood in a restaurant like Gaido’s or Landry’s with an ocean view. Actually I love going to Artwalk and Artoberfest on Post Office Street in the Fall—live music, wine and cheese, antiques and artwork. I relate to artists trying to sell their creations!


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

EMC: I love the puzzle aspect and relationships in mysteries, not the blood and guts. I’d call my novels more soft-boiled rather than traditional cozies since they have hard-boiled elements, but the violence tends to be toned down. I get so queasy, I can’t even watch CSI or Law and Order!


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

EMC: No.


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

EMC: In my soft-boiled Jazz Age mysteries, real-life rival gangs fight over booze and bars during Prohibition in 1920s Galveston, Texas—the “Sin City of the Southwest.” Jasmine (“Jazz”) Cross, a 21-year-old society reporter, feels caught between two clashing cultures: the seedy speakeasy underworld and the snooty social circles she covers in the Galveston Gazette.


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

EMC: Jasmine is my favorite, followed by Amanda, because they’re both good girls struggling to make their mark in a town filled with corruption, decadence and temptation.


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

EMC: After going on a “mobsters tour” in Chicago, I found out Galveston had its own crime familes and connection to Al Capone. I heard all these wild rumors about Galveston gangs and wanted to learn more about the Maceos and the Beach and Downtown gangs.


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

EMC: I came close to getting an agent but that was before Boardwalk Empire and the Great Gatsby helped fuel the Jazz Age craze. I’ve worked as a professional magazine editor and writer half my life, my brother is a graphic artist, and l have several editor friends so I charged ahead and decided to do it myself.


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

EMC: My answers may change every year, but for now: Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker and either Agatha Christie, Edgar Allen Poe or Shakespeare.


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

EMC: The Illusion of Murder by Carol McCleary about the adventures of Nellie Bly. As the first female investigative reporter, she was fearless!


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

EMC: I worked for two antique dealers/designers between journalism jobs in my 20s, and became interested in old things.

I collect vintage purses and Deco vanity items, and enjoy getting worn or damaged pieces restored to their original condition—or better!


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

EMC: Milk, 7 Up Ten, ice cream, seasonal fruits, especially grapes and watermelon during the summer.


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

EMC: I have a few new ideas but it depends on interest and time. I want to end on a high note and keep the series fresh, rather than wear out my welcome.


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

EMC: I love connecting with readers who enjoy my books and give me their opinion and thoughts on my characters. A few readers have e-mailed me wanting to friend me on Goodreads—and I’m delighted—but now it looks like only my good friends give me five-star reviews! LOL

One gal e’mailed me at 3 a.m. after finishing Bathing Beauties and was so excited that I was working on GOLD DIGGERS. She knew so much about the history that she actually gave me an idea for the ending.

One fan of the series is designing knitwear based on Jazz’s character—cloche caps, I think. Can’t wait to see her book!

These types of reader responses make all the hard work worthwhile.

For more information check out the following links: 

Website: http://www.flapperfinds.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ellen.mansoorcollier?fref=ts
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Gold-Diggers-Gamblers-Guns-Jazz-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00KF3TJCM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1401823006&sr=1-1&keywords=ellen+mansoor+collier
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6452242.Ellen_Mansoor_Collier


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Currently Reading...

I just started reading Scene of the Climb by Kate Dyer-Seeley. This book is the first in the Pacific Northwest Mystery series. Meg Reed is a recent college graduate with a degree in journalism. Sadly, she graduated when newspapers and other print media are laying off reporters rather than hiring newbies. Crashing on a friend's couch, Meg is desperate to find a job. When a surprise opportunity appears, Meg jumps at it-even though her experience with extreme sports is as a viewer, not as a participant. I love it when the character says, "What do I have to lose?" Uh oh....

Adventure tips and scenic tour included.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Chatting with Victoria Hamilton

Join Victoria Hamilton and me as we talk about her latest mystery, Muffin But Murder, and other things!


Kathy: Merry has an eclectic group of friends of various ages, both in NYC and Autumn Vale. Is your circle of friends as eclectic with people from different generations? Do have both Shilos and Pishes?

VH: I have a group of friends whose ages range from fiftyish to mid-seventies, and acquaintances much younger. I don’t exactly have Shilos and Pishes, but my friends are quirky in their own unique ways, as we all are.


Kathy: Merry Wynter, who previously resided in NYC, now lives in a castle in the Finger Lakes region of NY. Jaymie Leighton lives in a 19th-century yellow-brick house on the Michigan/Ontario border but also stays in an island cottage. Sophie Taylor lives in an apartment above her grandmother's tea shop. If you could live in any of these places, which would you choose?

VH: What a great question! Sophie’s apartment is too tiny for me; I need storage… lots and lots of storage! I’d love to stay in Merry’s castle for a while, but I think it would get exhausting just running up and down stairs for stuff. And to clean!!! What a nightmare, not to mention the cost of running it, which is one of Merry’s main concerns. Ultimately I would love Jaymie’s house in Queensville, Michigan. I love everything about it, including the Belfast sink in the kitchen, the summer porch on the back and the long lawn ending in a parking lane behind.

But I kind of like Rose Tree Cottage, too… ;-)


Kathy: In Muffin But Murder Merry decorates the castle for a spooky soiree. Do you enjoy all things spooky? Do you like to decorate for Halloween?

VH: Actually no. I’m just not a fan of Halloween, and neither is Merry. (What a coincidence!) That’s why she tries to make it Hallowe’en Lite, though the coffin kind of lends itself to creepy!


Kathy: Was there a specific inspiration for Muffin But Murder?

VH: It was basically a continuation from Bran New Death. The story wasn’t quite done yet, so I just continued on. It started with the party shop in Ridley Ridge… I got a clear image of the place in my head, and knew where I was starting.


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

VH: I’m in the thick of writing Book 3 right this minute! Merry is up to her ears in elderly ladies, amateur opera, snipey tea parties and Binny Turner still convinced there is treasure to be found in the castle! A whole passel of folks have moved in, and she’s tearing her hair out by the roots, right now. Oh, and muffins. Always muffins!


Kathy: Will you share any other upcoming books in any of your series?

VH: Dee-lighted! I just finished a copyedit of No Mallets Intended, Book 4 of the Vintage Kitchen Mysteries, out November 4th! I’m so excited, because the copyedit gave me the chance to go through it again, and I’m hoping that readers like what I’ve done. Jaymie is excited too because she gets to go hunting for another Hoosier cabinet! It’s definitely mostly mystery, but Jaymie’s love life is going to be in turmoil.


Kathy:A new interview section-this or that. Pick one of the 2 choices given.

Library or Bookstore: Library. I believe in libraries and contribute my books whenever I can, especially to small town libraries with a small budget. Libraries kept me going back in the poverty stricken days. I just love browsing, and I’d always leave with a heavy stack of books: fiction, art, history, cookbooks, you name it!!

Expositional or Continuing Story: Do you mean a series? I adore reading series, and have several that I follow. I can’t wait every year for another Sue Grafton!

Editing or Marketing: Dang… marketing I guess, because I love talking to readers and other writers! But editing is fun; I’ve written the book, so I’m not in a panic, and I just get to go through and clean up, rewrite, perfect. So… both??

TV or Film: TV. I’m a stay-at-home type.

Chocolate or Vanilla: Chocolate. With nuts.

Mountains or Beach: Beach. Mountains make me feel claustrophobic.

Tea or Coffee: Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon!

Cats or Dogs: Love dogs, but cats are just easier.

Summer or Winter: Fall.

Normal or Paranormal: Normal. Every time I try to write a paranormal, it turns out… normal. Mostly. Except for the werewolf series (Awaiting the Moon, etc.) I wrote several years back. Mwah-hah-hah!!

Vampire or Werewolf: Ah, well, there you go. Answered kind of in the previous question. Love wolves, so… werewolves, but only the kind that are actually beautiful wolves when they’ve shifted, not the standing-on-their-hind-legs, slavering, drooling and red-eyed kind of werewolf. Werewolves as heroes, I guess. Have a look at this page! http://donnaleasimpson.com/AwaitingSeries.html


Learn more about Victoria Hamilton and all her mystery series at: www.victoriahamiltonmysteries.com

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Tarot Mystery Interview With a Review & Giveaway

I'd like to welcome Steve Hockensmith to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Along with Lisa Falco, Steve has written The White Magic Five & Dime, the first in the Tarot Mystery series which was published the first of this month.
Kathy: The White Magic Five & Dime is written by Steve Hockensmith with Lisa Falco. How does this collaboration work?

SH: We'll tell you when we figure it out! We haven't nailed down a system yet. The White Magic Five & Dime went like this: Lisa had an idea for a series, I added a bunch of stuff to it (murders, for instance), then I outlined and wrote the first book while consulting with Lisa on the tarot and the overall direction. For the second book, I again did the outlining and wrote the first third, then Lisa took over to finish the first draft, and we'll work together on revisions. I'm guessing the third book in the series will follow the same pattern...but I also wouldn't be surprised if it looks entirely different.


Kathy: I am a collector and have several tarot decks, including some super fun ones (I have a Gummy Bear set!). Do you have any tarot decks of your own? If so, do you have a favorite, or a most unique?

SH: Lisa has some offbeat decks, I think, but I've just got two of the old standbys: the Rider Waite and the Universal Tarot. I don't know if I could handle a Gummy Bear set. I'd be giggling too much to do a reading.


Kathy: Through the years I've frequented and loved spending time in many New Age shops. Is The White Magic Five & Dime based on a real shop?

SH: Yes and no. In the beginning of the book, our hero, Alanis, is extremely cynical about the tarot and anything New Age-y. She assumes everyone's a con artist -- and some of the time she's right. By the end of the book, however, she's come to accept that it's possible to be utterly sincere about the tarot, and one of the people who teaches her that runs a New Age shop. So you've got good readers and bad readers, which has been my personal experience. Lisa gives incredible readings. But I've also had readings done by people who were trying so hard to manipulate me it was almost laughable.


Kathy: Some people believe that all tarot readers and other new age and paranormal practitioners are con artists, while others are devout believers, and still others have a healthy skepticism but willingness to believe. Where do you fall on this scale?

SH: Oooo -- that's a toughie! I guess I'd describe myself as an open-minded skeptic. I think the scientific method is our friend, and I don't put any faith in anything magical or mystical. On the other hand, I think it would be arrogant to dismiss the spiritual realm entirely. As science advances, we're learning that all kinds of weird, counter-intuitive things seem to be true. Quantum entanglement, for instance, would seem to suggest that objects and events can be linked in ways that don't follow the rules of Old School cause and effect. Einstein even called it "spooky action at a distance," and if that doesn't sound like "the paranormal" I don't know what does! When it comes to tarot, I've come to accept that (A) there's something to it (because Lisa has done readings for me that were so prophetic it's almost disturbing) yet (B) I have no rational explanation for how it works.


Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

SH: My dad was always watching mystery TV shows and movies when I was a kid, and when I figured out that they were basically a game -- you're trying to be the first one to figure out the puzzle -- I found that I enjoyed them, too. I especially liked the movies Death on the Nile and Evil Under the Sun, because in addition to being entertaining puzzle-games they were funny, too. Ditto for the Thin Man movies, which I discovered when I was in college (and have since watched a gazillion times). The genre has moved away from that style, for the most part, yet it's still my favorite kind of mystery.


Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

SH: Oh, I dabble. I've written Westerns and zombie romance novels and kids' books and science fiction and fantasy and horror stories. So I get around!


Kathy: Tell us about your series.

SH: Thank you! What writer doesn't love an opportunity to plug mercilessly? My Holmes on the Range novels and stories follow a pair of cowboy brothers in the 1890s who set out to become detectives using the methods of their hero, Sherlock Holmes. The first book in the series was a finalist for an Edgar Award. I also wrote an original prequel and sequel to the bestselling "mash-up" Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. And I've started writing a series of mysteries for kids with teacher and gadget-builder Science Bob Pflugfelder. The fourth book in the series, Nick and Tesla's Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove, comes out this fall.


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

SH: Of my own creations, I think my favorites are Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer, the heroes of the Holmes on the Range books. They're very different characters -- Big Red is brash and talkative, Old Red is moody and introverted -- yet they're both reflections of me. Except more heroic, of course. I've never solved a mystery greater than, "Where did the remote control go?"


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

SH: My inspiration was pretty straightforward. Lisa told me her idea for the book, and I said, "Throw a mystery in there and you'd have a great series." If only good ideas always dropped into my lap like that!


Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

SH: I guess I’m just a show-off! I’ve always loved storytelling and entertainment and I’ve wanted to be a part of that in some way since I was a kid. In my early twenties, I toyed with the idea of moving to L.A. and trying to become a TV writer, but I was intimidated by all the negative things I’d heard about the industry. So I focused on trying to write books because it seemed like it would be something I could do entirely on my own without having to jump through a lot of hoops. That was a pretty na├»ve way of looking at publishing, but fortunately it worked out O.K.!


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

SH: From what I’ve read, I get the impression that the two writers who had the biggest influence on me – Kurt Vonnegut and Raymond Chandler – were sour old poops. So I’d like to invite them, but only if they were going to show up in a good mood. I’d want to have David Sedaris there, too, but I’d be worried that he’d write about it later and I’d come off looking like a schmuck. So he’d have to sign a non-disclosure agreement for anything that happened that night. And finally I’d invite the science fiction and mystery writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch because (A) she’s always been really nice to me even though (B) we’ve never met face to face and (C) I’d need someone I could turn to from time to time to say, “Can you believe it? We’re in the same room as Kurt Vonnegut and Raymond Chandler!”


Kathy: What are you currently reading?

SH: These days, I’m usually reading two books, one fiction and one non-fiction. (I like to read when I’m at the gym, but for some reason novels don’t hold my attention when I’m on a StairMaster.) So at the moment I’m half-way through 52 Pickup by Elmore Leonard and Company of Heroes: My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company by Harry Carey Jr.


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

SH: I have kids and a day job and contracts for several books, so I don’t have any hobbies. I barely have time to sleep and eat! I do have a lot of interests, though. Movies, music, politics, history, science, bourbon, beer. I manage to squeeze in a little of it from time to time – especially the bourbon – but I won’t be able to get serious about anything until I retire. Twenty five years from now, I plan to be one incredibly well-rounded guy!


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

SH: Leftover Chinese, leftover pizza, the aforementioned bourbon and fruit and vegetables I should really eat a lot more of.


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

SH: Lisa and I are hard at work on the sequel to The White Magic Five & Dime, and there will be at least one more book in the series after that. In the meantime, I’m working with Science Bob on the fifth book in the Nick and Tesla series while also making tentative plans to launch a new series for kids while relaunching the Holmes on the Range series. So plans? I’ve got too many!


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

SH: Writing is hard, having written is wonderful. I love being able to look at the shelf over my desk and see all my books lined up. It’s like the tagline at the very end of every X-Files episode: “I made this!” It’s a great feeling.



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Review

The White Magic Five & Dime by Steve Hockensmith with Lisa Falco
The First Tarot Mystery


Alanis McLachland receives a phone call regarding her mother, the mother she hasn't had contact with in twenty years, the mother who has just been murdered. Alanis travels to Berdache, Arizona to deal with the resolution of her mother's remains and receive her inheritance (the White Magic Five and Dime- a new age store offering tarot readings) and perhaps search out justice. In so doing she encounters a threatening bailbondsman, a sullen teenager, a good looking cop, and the realization that all is not what it seems.

The White Magic Five & Dime is called a cozy and although it meets the general requirements (an amateur sleuth, small town environment-or neighborhood in big city, no graphic violence or sex) I would not classify it as a cozy. There is a tone to it; a grittiness, a harshness. This book is not a feel good story, the setting, not a place you'd like to hang out. You may be curious to visit, but I'm not sure you'd like to stay. However, while I find I can't call it a cozy, I certainly can call it a good mystery.

Alanis McLachland is not your typical heroine. She's brash, cynical, and jaded; not surprising given her upbringing. Periodically, throughout the book the authors take us back in time to see pivotal moments in her youth. We begin to understand her actions and her personality. These flashbacks give reason and show that behind the tough, non-caring exterior is a woman who does feel and ultimately does care.

Also interspersed throughout are images of tarot cards with the meanings as given by Miss Chance from the book, Infinite Roads to Knowing, the book Alanis has chosen to learn the tarot and her mother's latest con. I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the book as I also enjoyed the realization that while some tarot readers may be con artists the cards themselves can hold many truths.

Enter the White Magic Five & Dime with an open mind and no preconceived notions and you'll find an intriguing mystery you can enjoy.


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For a chance to win a print copy of The White Magic Five & Dime leave a comment here telling us if you've ever had a tarot reading and/or your thoughts about tarot cards by 11:59 pm Monday, July 14, 2014. Be sure to leave your e-mail address so that I'm able to contact you should you win. US mailing addresses only.