Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Pentimento Mori by Valeria Corciolani. This book is the first in the Dr. Edna Silvera Mystery series and was released yesterday.

An art historian and restorer Edna Silvera has little patience for academia…and everything else for that matter. Though she’d rather stay at home with her cat and chickens, she’s talked into representing the university at the Siestri Dante Festival. She immediately regrets that decision, as she deals with winding roads, bureaucracy, bad weather, and a dead body! The discovery of a medieval polyptych with some unusual aspects has her captivated. Now if she can unravel the mystery of the painting she just may solve a murder. A task that may prove easier than finding a new housekeeper for her cantankerous mother.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

A Whale of a Murder - A Review

 Review


A WHALE OF A MURDER by Valerie Taylor
The First Venus Bixby Mystery

Chatham Crossing is a quiet Massachusetts town where nothing much happens, at least on the outside. An old whaling town, it's best known for the Sofia Silva Whaling Museum. It's also home of Oldies and Goodies, a popular music store run by Venus Bixby. While the town is gearing to celebrate Independence Day, everyone is also planning to celebrate Venus' fiftieth birthday with a gala affair at the museum. But some people have motives other than wishing Venus well. As Venus walks through the museum's garden to check on her party's progress she manages to trip over a pair of platform shoes. Shoes attached to a body. A body who won't be around to sing Happy Birthday.

Murder and robbery put a halt to a big birthday bash in the first Venus Bixby Mystery. Like the whales at the Sofia Silva Whaling Museum, A WHALE OF A MURDER has good bones. I wanted to love it and while I didn't dislike it, I had some issues with it.

The first part of A WHALE OF A MURDER jumped timelines so much I felt I had whiplash.  The book started with a report of the murder, then we went to a time before, then after, and back and forth. In addition, the story was told from multiple points of view. While doing so gave readers some insight into these characters, it was a jumble and took away any sense of continuity. I preferred it when the author finally got to a linear time frame told from Venus' point of view, interspersed with the newspaper articles which were a nice touch.

The characters here are certainly unique. Venus could use a better circle of friends-who needs enemies when you have friends like hers! Venus herself is certainly flawed and not the most likeable of protagonists, especially in the first part of the book. I never did work out why she should be the toast of the town. I did enjoy seeing her relationship with her sister evolve.

The mystery and Venus' investigation were very drawn out. She and her sister made a suspect list, asked some questions, but mainly went sightseeing. Too much time was taken away from the actual plot and spent on things not germane to the mystery. 

With musical jokes, delicious cookies, and a birthday diva, A WHALE OF A MURDER is an interesting start to a new series.

Monday, July 15, 2024

Keeled Over at the Cliffside - A Cover Reveal

Keeled Over at the Cliffside by Nancy Stewart

Cozy Mystery 1st in Series
Setting - California
Independently Published (August 15, 2024)
Number of Pages - 254

In the charming seaside town of Saltcliff on the Sea, Dahlia Vale's life is about to take a dramatic twist. Leaving behind her monotonous job as a defense contractor, Dahlia inherits her late sister Daisy’s cozy inn and a new role as guardian to her spirited niece, Diantha. But Saltcliff holds more than just new beginnings; it hides whispers of past loves, local feuds, and a string of suspicious deaths that soon draw Dahlia into their depths.

Navigating her new life with the loyal Taco, her service dog, at her side, Dahlia stumbles upon secrets that Daisy left behind. The quaint Saltcliff Bed & Breakfast becomes center stage for these mysteries as Dahlia uncovers links between a controversial local chef's death and her sister’s secretive gardening habits. As Dahlia delves deeper, aided by the astute Detective Owen Sanderson, she finds herself untangling a web of betrayal, blackmail, and hidden motives—all under the guise of serving the perfect morning scones to her guests.

With each chapter, Dahlia transitions from an outsider to a beloved figure in the community, piecing together clues with a charm only a true amateur sleuth could possess. Amidst the culinary delights and scenic walks on the beach, “Keeled Over at the Cliffside” crafts a tapestry of intrigue and murder, testing Dahlia's wit and pulling her further into the heart of Saltcliff's darkest secrets. Will Dahlia serve justice as adeptly as she serves her guests?

Step into the pages of this culinary cozy mystery, where every character has a story, and the truth is as layered as a well-baked pastry. Perfect for fans of a good puzzle and a great plate of food (or those who just love a loyal Labrador), this book promises to be a delicious read from start to finish.

Join Dahlia, Diantha, and Taco as they discover that even the most picturesque towns can hide the most sinister secrets.

Preorder Your Copy Today! Amazon

About Nancy Stewart

 

Nancy Stewart is the cozy pen name of USA Today bestselling rom-com author Delancey Stewart. This is her first cozy mystery, despite being raised on a steady diet of Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie, and supplementing that in adulthood with mysteries and thrillers whenever possible. She writes from her home near Denver, Colorado, where she lives with her former Marine hubby and two teenage boys. And of course, her dog, Charlie Taco (who appears in her mystery series as Taco the service dog.)

Author Links Website Facebook Amazon

Have you signed up to be a Tour Host? Click Here to Find Details and Sign Up Today! Want to Book a Tour? Click Here

Sunday, July 14, 2024

A Whale of a Murder - An Interview & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Valerie Taylor to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Valerie writes the Venus Bixby Mystery series. A WHALE OF A MURDER is the first book in the series.

Kathy: In A WHALE OF A MURDER we meet Venus Bixby owner of the music store Oldies and Goodies. Does music play a big part in your life? What's your favorite musical style?

VT: I’ve loved music for as long as can remember. My interest in music emerged when I was a child in 1959; the year my father died. That was the year “Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin hit the radio waves and Elvis Presley was shaking, rattling, and rolling. A year or two later, my mother enrolled me in a co-ed dancing class. Shortly thereafter, I was chosen for ballroom competition. Very different than Dancing with the Stars! Such memories, though. Not surprisingly, Venus owns an oldies music store, clearly my favorite kind of music.

Kathy: Chatham Crossing is a historic whaling town between Providence and Cape Cod. Were you interested in the history of this area or familiar with whaling prior to writing this book?

VT: Chatham Crossing is loosely based on New Bedford, Massachusetts. After I retired in 2016, I spent a day there and was so impressed. I especially loved the whaling museum because it opened my eyes to an important historic industry I knew virtually nothing about.

Kathy: In addition to playlists you also include cookie recipes in this book. Do you enjoy baking? Do you create your own cookies? Do you have a favorite cookie?

VT: I am the world’s worst baker. It took me years to accept the fact that, when baking, to ensure the recipe wasn’t a flop, the ingredients needed to be measured exactly. Except perhaps for the chocolate chips in my favorite cookie!

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

VT: Other than perhaps Agatha Christie novels, cozy mysteries were rarely on my bedside table. I can thank readers of my romantic comedy series for raising the prospect of my trying my hand at writing a cozy mystery. After I’d heard that suggestion from multiple readers, I figured they must know something I hadn’t thought of. The rest, as they say, is now history … or should I say cozy.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

VT: My debut novel in 2020, WHAT’S NOT SAID, was my first romantic comedy that evolved into a series I fondly call the What’s Not trilogy. WHAT’S NOT TRUE was published in 2021 and was followed by WHAT’S NOT LOST in 2023. I’d intended the first book to be my one great American novel, but readers had other ideas. They wanted more. So I obliged.


Kathy: Tell us about your series. 

VT: Set mainly in Boston with side trips to Venice, Paris, and Greece, the What’s Not romantic comedy trilogy tells the story of Kassie O’Callaghan who has been in her dysfunctional marriage way past its expiration date. When she’s ready to escape with a younger man she met on a solo vacation to Venice, she discovers her husband has a serious illness. This unexpected dilemma sets off a series of events where Kassie has to decide whether to uphold her marriage vows, to fight for what is legally and rightfully hers, and to figure out how to balance her career ambitions with her desire for happily ever after. Question is: can Kassie have it all?

The VENUS BIXBY MYSTERY series will consist of three cozy mysteries set in Chatham Crossing, a fictional whaling village. The first book, A WHALE OF A MURDER, introduces retro-music store owner Venus Bixby. On the morning of her 50th birthday party, Venus stumbles over a pair of orange platform shoes in the gardens of the Sofia Silva Whaling Museum and breaks her thumb. When it’s discovered the shoes are attached to the dead body of the manager of the museum’s gift shop, Venus becomes both a suspect and a sleuth. Will she sing and dance at her party, or will she and her broken thumb be hauled off in handcuffs?

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

VT: Not sure if this is strange, but my favorite character in the What’s Not trilogy is Topher, the cat. He’s an orange tabby that appears in the first book and then has a cameo in the second. Consistently, readers demanded more of Topher. Hence, in the third book, WHAT’S NOT LOST, Topher purrs a whole lot more.

One of my favorite characters in A WHALE OF A MURDER is Helen Davis, a minor character with a feisty attitude. She’s one of the bakers in Bixby’s Dozen, which is the bakery within Oldies & Goodies. In her mid-sixties, Helen assumes the world revolves around her. She reminds me of Ouiser Bourdeaux in Steel Magnolias. Like Ouiser, she also has a man who trails behind her and is at her beck and call.

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

VT: Venus Bixby inspired me to create a mystery series in her name. After I created her as a minor character in WHAT’S NOT LOST, I loved her so much I decided she needed her own story and series. Only recently did it occur to me that this cozy mystery series is actually a prequel to the What’s Not trilogy, especially WHAT’S NOT LOST. Talk about unintended consequences! 

 

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

VT: While I was drafting WHAT’S NOT SAID, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t publish it. The question eventually became How? As I was exploring the different publishing paths, I discovered hybrid publishing. After I published the first two books in the What’s Not trilogy with She Writes Press, I decided to shift to self-publishing for the last book in the series. Logically, I self-published A WHALE OF A MURDER and will continue in that direction going forward.

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

VT: I’d invite two women and two men to my dinner party. Two of the four are dead, two are living. Number one invitation would go to Charlotte Bronte, the author of my favorite novel JANE EYRE. I’d want to know what it really was like to be a female writer in her day. Next would be Ernest Hemingway because I study his writing. The third invitation would go to Maggie O’Farrell, the author of THE MARRIAGE PORTAIT and HAMNET, so I could learn to be a better storyteller. Lastly, I’d fill the last chair around the table with Walter Isaacson. What an amazing prolific writer he is. I’d want to know how he can write historical biographies and then pivot to contemporaries who have influenced our current society.

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

VT: Several years ago I read Sharon Dukett’s memoir, NO RULES, based on her life experience in the sixties. Her latest book, THE SHUTDOWN LIST, just came out mid-June. It’s a fast-moving and exciting thriller, showing the true breadth of Ms. Dukett’s talent. A must read.

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

VT: If I could roll back the calendar to my childhood, I’d learn how to play the piano or take up a sport, like soccer. One can dream, right? But since I can’t go back and change my future, I have to admit to being an exceptional sports spectator. I enjoy watching most sports either live or on television, even golf. Strange, huh?!

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

VT: Cheerios. Tea. Ice Cream. SmartWater.

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

VT: Currently, I’m writing the second book in the Venus Bixby Mystery series. I’m expecting there to be three in all. I’m about half way through the messy first draft. And then the fun begins!

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

VT: My most favorite aspect about being an author is creating a story out of whole cloth. My protagonists — Kassie O’Callaghan and Venus Bixby — are a figment of my imagination. They and their stories are as unique as each new flower that blooms. And that’s what gets me up in the morning! 

********************************************************************

 A Whale of a Murder: A Venus Bixby Mystery by Valerie Taylor

About A Whale of a Murder


A Whale of a Murder: A Venus Bixby Mystery
Cozy Mystery 1st in Series
Setting - Chatham Crossing, a fictional whaling town situated between Providence and Cape Cod
Publisher: ‎ Aspetuck Publishing (April 23, 2024)
Paperback: ‎ 358 pages

First in the Venus Bixby Mystery series from award-winning author Valerie Taylor.

Sea breezes and fireworks fill the air in cozy Chatham Crossing, the peaceful and historic whaling town situated between Providence and Cape Cod.

Venus Bixby, owner of the forever popular music store Oldies & Goodies, is counting on the festivities over the Fourth of July weekend to propel her to a position on the prestigious Town Committee.

After years of living in the shadow of her late husband, Venus will finally be the center of attention this holiday weekend: starting with her fiftieth birthday celebration and ending as the parade’s Grand Marshal.

Faster than a cookie crumbles, her dream collapses on the morning of her party when she trips over orange platform shoes in the gardens of the Sofia Silva Whaling Museum and breaks her thumb. When it’s discovered the shoes are attached to the body of the manager of the museum’s gift shop, Venus becomes both a suspect and a sleuth in Chatham Crossing’s first murder in decades.

Given this unexpected turn of events, will Venus ever sing and dance at her birthday party, or will her fractured thumb end up in handcuffs?

Includes cookie recipes and playlist!

About Valerie Taylor

Valerie Taylor tried to retire in 2016. But life had other ideas. After enjoying some of the best years of her life in Boston and Seattle, she moved back home to Connecticut and embarked on a second career as an author. Her first romantic comedy trilogy What’s Not Said, What’s Not True, and What’s Not Lost won multiple awards. Encouraged by her readers, she created a new cozy mystery series, spinning one of the secondary characters in What’s Not LOST into the role of amateur sleuth in A Whale of a Murder: A Venus Bixby Mystery. When she’s not writing or reading, Valerie enjoys practicing tai chi and being an expert sports spectator.

Author Links: 

Website: https://valerietaylorauthor.com  

Facebook: facebook.com/valerietaylorauthor  

Twitter/X: twitter.com/ValerieEMTaylor  

Instagram: Instagram.com/ValerieETaylor/  

Purchase Links - Amazon - B&N - Bookshop.org -

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 12, 2024

Lights, Camera, Bones - A Spotlight

Today I'd like to shine a spotlight on a long running series. Lights, Camera, Bones by Carolyn Haines is the twenty-seventh book in the Sarah Boothe Delaney Mystery series and was released in May.

Blurb:

Delaney Detective Agency gets a taste of the spotlight when they are called to a case on a movie set in Greenville, MS, right on the Mississippi River. Marlon Brandon, heir to a wealthy and influential political family, has brought a film crew to town to film a drama about the 1927 flood that submerged a great deal of Greenville. Marlon wants the world to know the story of the flood—and the heroic role the Brandon ancestors played in rescuing dozens of local residents from drowning.

Or at least that was the plan until he disappeared. If this weren't concerning enough, the situation appears even more dire when a severed foot is discovered in the Mississippi River, and clues indicate that Marlon may have fallen victim to a freak bull shark attack.

But as rumors swirl around the Delta about Marlon's motives for making the film, Sarah Booth and Tinkie have to wonder whether a shark is to blame, or an equally ferocious human offender. The show must go on, and Sarah Booth and her crew will have to investigate all manner of creatures, over land and sea, in order to solve the mystery and save the day.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Currently Reading...

I’m currently reading A Whale of a Murder by Valerie Taylor. This book is the first in the Venus Bixby Mystery series and was released earlier this year.

Chatham Crossing is a quiet Massachusetts town where nothing much happens, at least on the outside. An old whaling town, it's best known for the Sofia Silva Whaling Museum. It's also home of Oldies and Goodies, a popular music store run by Venus Bixby. While the town is gearing to celebrate Independence Day, everyone is also planning to celebrate Venus' fiftieth birthday with a gala affair at the museum. But some people have motives other than wishing Venus well. As Venus walks through the museums garden to check on her party's progress she manages to trip over a pair of platform shoes. Shoes attached to a body. A body who won't be around to sing Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Bearer of Secrets - A Guest Post, Review, & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Nupur Tustinback to Cozy Up With Kathy. Nupur writes the Celine Skye Psychic Mystery series. BEARER OF SECRETS is the third book in the series and was released last month.

Master Thieves Or Inept Hacks?
Nupur Tustin


Master thieves or inept hacks? That’s the question I asked myself when I began researching the Gardner Museum theft for the Celine Skye Psychic Mystery series.

Celine is a psychic art sleuth working with the FBI on the case, and every mystery in the series, including Bearer of Secrets, the newest release, develops on the theory I’ve developed of what happened and why.

But first let me tell you about the theft and why the jury’s still out there on whether the men behind the most notorious heist in American history were master thieves or inept hacks.

Here’s what happened:

On March 18, 1990 two men broke into Boston’s Gardner Museum. They didn’t smash doors or break windows to effect their entry. Dressed as policemen, they persuaded the night guards—college students trying to earn a little extra money—to let them in.

What’s intriguing about this theft is not how the thieves managed to get in nor how much time they spent in the museum—a total of 81 minutes—nor how many works they made off with—a total of 13.

No, what’s intriguing is that there’s absolutely no viable lead about who was behind the theft and where the works might have ended up.

And when one looks at what was stolen, invariably one has to wonder: were these truly masterminds or inept hacks?

The media has always been divided on the issue, tending toward the latter view. It’s fair to say investigators aren’t sure either.

On the one hand, the works taken from the Dutch Room—the Rembrandts and the Vermeer—were among the most valuable pieces taken. Today, the Vermeer alone is valued at about $500 million. I wasn’t able to find out how much the Chez Tortoni stolen from the Gardner was worth, but Manet’s works have fetched as much as $65 million at auction.

So clearly, the thieves knew the value of what they were stealing. That would suggest a master thief, right?

Not so fast. You see the more valuable a stolen painting, the more well-known the artist, the harder it is to get rid of the item. One way to move such a painting would be to use it as currency in the criminal underworld—as collateral for a loan, let’s say, that gets used to buy and traffic drugs or arms.

The other would be to sell it to an unscrupulous collector through perhaps a dealer with a less than stellar moral code.

Only a hack would steal a valuable painting worth millions of dollars. It would be very hard to get rid of. You could ransom it, of course. But that, too, is a tricky affair. Some art sleuths like Holland’s Arthur Brandt aren’t above paying “middlemen” for their help in recovering a stolen masterpiece.

Most in the art recovery business prefer not to go that route for the simple reason that it encourages more art theft.

The theft of the Degas sketches from the Short Gallery where Mrs. Gardner placed her drawings and sketches is a puzzle, too. There were Michelangelo prints that were of far greater value.

And the Degas sketches—the most finished of them was a watercolor, the least finished look like scribblings; nicely done scribblings, but scribblings none the less. Why would anyone want these? Where could they hope to sell them?

So the thieves must have been inept hacks, right? Maybe not.

The same argument that applies to the Dutch works applies here. Surely the Degas sketches would be easier to sell than the more recognizable Michelangelo.

And because artists typically proceed from small- and large-scale sketches to a full-fledged painting, sketches contribute to an art connoisseur’s understanding and appreciation of their favorite artist. Their presence can help authenticate a work and in its attribution and might also arguably make an artist’s finished work even more valuable.

So you can see why stealing the sketches might’ve been the work of a master thief.

So, master thieves or inept hacks? What do you think?

Share your thoughts with Kathy and me. And don’t forget to enter the Giveaway for a print copy of Bearer of Secrets, the latest Celine Skye Psychic Mystery.

If you enjoy art heists, intrigue, and murder, this is a book you won’t want to miss!

***********************************************************************

Review


BEARER OF SECRETS by Nupur Tustin
The Third Celine Skye Psychic Mystery 

Back in California Celine Skye is trying to work at her newly inherited winery, but thoughts of the Gardner Heist and concern for the elderly Clara have her mind elsewhere. A news article and visions of danger around Clara soon compel her to return to Boston. While FBI Agent Blake Markham looks into a Degas sketch with questionable provenance and ownership, Celine and retired FBI Agent Julia Hood focus on Clara who just may hold the key to the Gardner Museum theft. Will they recover more of the stolen items? Will they finally find out who was behind the heist? Will they be able to keep Clara safe?

While BEARER OF SECRETS is a work of fiction, the Gardner Heist was real and is still unsolved. An unsolved mystery is compelling in so many ways. It's fascinating to read what may have happened and the slow reveal found here is executed so well. Leads pop up and are followed. Each step has us learning more, following clues. But supposition isn't enough. Suspects are tied together like flies caught in a web, but just who is the spider?

Emotions run high and danger is rife, as Celine tries to decipher the meaning behind her visions. I was enthralled and felt as if I was on a runaway train...knowing there was disaster ahead and unsure who, if anyone, would escape unscathed. 

With smart taut writing along with great characterization BEARER OF SECRETS will have you on the edge of your seat pondering the unsolved crime while waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

*********************************************************************

 Bearer of Secrets: An Art Heist Mystery (Celine Skye Psychic Mystery Series) by Nupur Tustin

About Bearer of Secrets

Bearer of Secrets: An Art Heist Mystery (Celine Skye Psychic Mystery Series)
Psychic Mystery 3rd in Series
Setting – Paso Robles, CA and Boston, MA
Publisher: ‎ Foiled Plots Press (June 27, 2024)
Print length: ‎ 397 pages

SIZZLING SUSPENSE: Based on the True Story of Boston's Gardner Museum Theft!

Could a stolen Degas unravel a cold-case art heist? Celine must find out before murder closes in . . . Shattered by a journalist’s death and sensing danger to his mother, Clara, psychic art sleuth Celine Skye struggles to focus on the Gardner Museum theft. Until a stolen Degas taken eight years after the heist surfaces—along with new clues and visions of Clara in peril.

Compelled to investigate, Celine has a startling revelation linking Clara to a Gardner Museum insider. Could Clara’s son have uncovered evidence implicating her friend in the theft?

With the threat to Clara escalating, Celine must find the truth before murder finds them both. . .

About Nupur Tustin

Nupur Tustin is a former journalist who misuses a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to paint intrigue and orchestrate murder. She is the author of the Joseph Haydn Mystery series set in eighteenth-century Austria and the Celine Skye Psychic Mysteries about a psychic art sleuth who takes on the still unsolved Gardner Museum theft of 1990. She also writes the Sophie's Adventure series about an art sleuth who recovers stolen art as an undercover tourist. For more about her and her books, please visit https://ntustin.com

Author Links

Purchase Links: From the Author Amazon B& N Nook Kobo Apple iBooks  

a Rafflecopter giveaway