Sunday, April 5, 2020

Staging Wars - A Guest Post, Review, & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Laura Bishop to Cozy Up With Kathy today. You can find Laura on the pages of the Laura Bishop Mystery series by Grace Topping. STAGING WARS is the second book in the series and will released April 28, 2020.


When I tell people I’m a home stager, I frequently get blank stares. It’s only been in recent years that home staging has become heard of.

So you ask, what does a home stager do? A home stager works to help homeowners sell their homes faster and for more money. If you were to hire me, I would come into your home and either give you guidance on what you could do yourself to get your house ready for sale, or you could turn the whole thing over to me and I would take care of whatever it needs. If you’ve already moved, I could bring in furniture and accessories to make your place look attractive and lived in.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it. I wish it were always that simple. In the first house I staged, a 19th century mansion that hadn’t been updated in decades, the body of the homeowner fell from a laundry chute and landed at my feet. That was quite a shock, I’ll tell you. Worse, my young assistant was accused of murdering her.

I got dragged into the murder investigation when my assistant’s grandmother pleaded with me to help free him by finding the killer. I had no experience finding killers. The only experience I had in solving a mystery was finding a bug in a computer system. You’ve heard of amateur sleuths? I was a reluctant amateur sleuth. I knew my skills, and finding a murderer wasn’t among them. However, I couldn’t say no to her. I have this problem of saying no to people who ask for my help

Also complicating my life is my nemesis, a local interior designer. She bullied me in school and we’ve been at war since the second grade. Even as adults, she continues to be a thorn in my side. I’ve come to suspect that she’s sabotaging my fledgling business. Worse, I suspect she was involved with my late husband. When she gets into a spot of trouble, I’m faced with helping her when my friends come under the police radar. I would rather see her languishing in a prison cell on bedsheets far from the silky ones she is accustomed to. But if I’m to save my friends, I’ve got to help her. All this while trying to stage several homes at the same time.

In STAGING WARS, I become involved with the local arts group and a murder or two. Who would have thought art could be so deadly? All I really wanted to do was attract more staging business, not trying to identify a killer.

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Review

STAGING WARS by Grace Topping
The Second Laura Bishop Mystery

A dead body in a funeral home generally isn't cause for alarm. It is, however, when the dead body is lying on the hallway floor with a knife sticking out of his back! While Mrs. Webster seems intrigued by another murder and Nita is freaking out after originally finding the dead man, Laura Bishop maintains she will not get involved in another murder investigation. Even when Laura and her friends find Laura's nemesis holding a bloody knife over yet another dead body, she doesn't want to get involved. Perhaps karma has finally caught up with the woman who not only tormented her growing up, but might have had an affair with her husband, and may be sabotaging her business. Laura balks when Sister Madeleine urges her to not only help prove Monica's innocence, but also make sure her business, her competing business, stays on track. Laura, giving in to the guilt trip, eventually agrees to help out. After all, how can one say no to a nun?

Two murders, both men stabbed in the back, but seemingly no other connection. A conundrum that makes for an interesting mystery. I appreciate how the connection is made and the "a-ha" moments when I remembered the clues the author left for observant readers. I'm enjoying how Laura is clueless about Detective Spangler's feelings for her, though admittedly the clues are subtle. I adore Mrs. Webster, with her no nonsense attitude and sense of adventure. The little details and well developed characters give this series an added zing.

I was a little annoyed by Laura's attitude towards horses and the author certainly needed to do a little more research in that regard. Though she knew the horse needed to be cooled down, how it was done was incorrect and I gasped aloud when the horse was given lots of water to drink after a hard workout in the heat! Although I felt that some suspects where given short shrift and could have been fleshed out more, it would have made for a very long, perhaps too long, book. These are minor complaints, however, as I did thoroughly enjoy this second Laura Bishop Mystery.

STAGING WARS is an intriguing, well plotted mystery that includes characters with chemistry, humor, and hints of things to come.

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Staging Wars (A Laura Bishop Mystery) by Grace Topping

About Staging Wars

 
 Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series 
Publisher: Henery Press (April 28, 2020)  
Hardcover: 254 pages  Paperback: 254 pages
Laura Bishop’s new home staging business is growing in popularity, though not with her nemesis. Laura has long suspected established interior designer Monica Heller of sabotaging her fledgling company—and having an affair with her late husband.
When the ultra-chic Monica is caught at the scene of a murder, Laura is plenty happy to imagine her languishing in a prison cell with bedsheets far from her normal 600-thread Egyptian cotton. But her delight is short-lived. When Laura’s friends land on the police’s radar, Laura must overcome her dislike of Monica to help solve the crime. Not an easy task since Laura and Monica have been at war since the second grade.

About Grace Topping


Grace Topping is a recovering technical writer and IT project manager, accustomed to writing lean, boring documents. Let loose to write fiction, she is now creating murder mysteries and killing off characters who remind her of some of the people she dealt with during her career. Fictional revenge is sweet. She’s using her experience helping friends stage their homes for sale as inspiration for her Laura Bishop mystery series. The series is about a woman starting a new career midlife as a home stager. The first book in the series, Staging is Murder, is a 2019 Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel. Grace is the former vice president of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and a member of the SINC Guppies and Mystery Writers of America. She lives with her husband in Northern Virginia.

Author Links:
Website – https://www.gracetopping.com  
Twitter – https://twitter.com/gtoppingauthor  
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/GraceToppingAuthor  
GoodReads – https://www.goodreads.com/goodreadscomgracetopping
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/books/staging-wars-by-grace-topping  

Purchase Links – Amazon B&N Kobo 

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Friday, April 3, 2020

Murder at the Taffy Shop - A Review

Review


MURDER AT THE TAFFY SHOP by Maddie Day
The Second Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery

Beverly Ruchart is not a pleasant person. It seems as if Olean and perhaps one other person in Westham like the woman. When Mac Almeida goes to meet her friend Gin for their morning walk, she finds Gin hovering over Beverly's body. Beverly's very dead body. Mac's book club is excited to try to solve yet another murder and Mac is more than happy to share all the information they find to the State Police Detective. But when evidence is found implicating Gin, Mac goes into overdrive looking for suspects, of which there are plenty. Will Mac and the Cozy Capers Book Club find enough evidence to exonerate one of their own? Or will Mac's snooping simply land her in the crosshairs of a killer?

The majority of people who knew the victim in MURDER AT THE TAFFY SHOP didn't like her. Heck, in the first scene she's mad at a puppy! Even her grandson seems to only tolerate her for her money. Thus when her body is found we have plenty of suspects. Suspects Mac is going to engage in order to shift the blame from her bestie, Gin, who found the body. 

Strong characterization of even the minor players leads to an engaging mystery. It also shows how much Maddie Day can draw her readers in. In the first book in the series I felt that Mac's boyfriend, Tim, seemed to good to be true. The second book proved me right. Tim brings in a major character relationship subplot. He really made me angry with his petulant behavior regarding what he wants from their relationship. While Tim really rankled me, I grew to love Lincoln and Abo Reba even more. Belle continues to make me laugh and she certainly earned her frozen grapes in the Second Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery.

MURDER AT THE TAFFY SHOP is a character driven mystery that focuses on family. Love, a few laughs, and an action packed confrontation with a killer make this an enjoyable second outing.

Recipes Included.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Murder at the Taffy Shop by Maddie Day. This book is the second in the Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery series and was released yesterday!

Beverly Ruchart is not a pleasant person. It seems as if Olean and perhaps one other person in Westham like the woman. When Mac Almeida goes to meet her friend Gin for their morning walk, she finds Gin hovering over Beverly's body. Beverly's very dead body. Mac's book club is excited to try to solve yet another murder and Mac is more than happy to share all the information they find to the State Police Detective. But when evidence is found implicating Gin, Mac goes into overdrive looking for suspects, of which there are plenty. Will Mac and the Cozy Capers Book Club find enough evidence to exonerate one of their own? Or will Mac's snooping simply land her in the crosshairs of a killer?


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Lost Gargoyle of Paris - A Review

Review


THE LOST GARGOYLE OF PARIS by Gigi Pandian
An Accidental Alchemist Novella

The discovery of an illustration by Victor Hugo after the fire in Notre Dame brings Zoe Faust and Dorian to Paris. With this monumental discovery the alchemist and her gargoyle friend want to make certain that backwards alchemists haven't resurfaced. When Zoe discovers the illustration has been stolen she wonders if Dorian could have taken it, and if he did steal it, where is he? If he's innocent, who actually stole the piece of history?

Last year's tragic fire at Notre Dame left people heart-broken throughout the world. A symbol, not only of religion, but art, architecture, and Paris itself engulfed in flames, a national treasure being lost. In reality, while parts were lost, a good portion of the cathedral was able to be saved. In fiction, a treasure was found. I was curious how Zoe, and especially Dorian, would deal with the destruction and I was so happy to see them confront it in this new Accidental Alchemist novella.

One of the things Gigi Pandian does best is weave historical fact into a mystery novel and she does it here with aplomb. Her rich narrative, combining fact with a believable fiction, is my favorite part of THE LOST GARGOYLE OF PARIS. In addition, this novella showcases her talent at the locked room mystery. There's plenty of humor to be found here too. I still chuckle when I picture Dorian is his disguise. And getting up into the small Parisian apartment to begin with.

THE LOST GARGOYLE OF PARIS is a gem. Fast paced, this brief novella still manages to cram in lots of content into a seemingly impossible crime while allowing its characters to shine.

Recipes Included.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Murder in the Cemetery - A Guest Post & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Carrie Ramos to Cozy Up With Kathy today. You can find Carrie in the pages of the Edmund DeCleryk Mystery series by Karen Shughart. Murder in the Cemetery is the second book in the series and was released last month.


Well, here I am, the police chief of Lighthouse Cove, NY, which is a small village located on the south shore of Lake Ontario. I haven’t been in the position for very long, less than two years, I was the deputy chief under Ben Fisher before that. Ben was a wonderful boss and became my friend and mentor, but he relocated with his wife to Casa Grande, Arizona to be closer to family members and now works as police chief there. At times I miss him, he was very wise and a calming influence on me, but I know the door is always open for me to call him when I need advice.

I work closely these days with Ed DeCleryk, who was police chief before Ben but retired and became a criminal consultant. The man is one of the most competent I’ve ever met, although we do sometimes bump heads when working on a murder investigation together. He has the credentials and experience, before becoming police chief he headed up a violent crimes’ unit in Albany, and before that he was a Navy SEAL, but my instincts are good despite my being almost 30 years younger than he. I stand my ground and can usually convince him that I do know what I’m talking about.

Being police chief has its challenges. When I accepted the job, I figured that the crimes I’d be dealing with would be DUIs, an occasional domestic violence complaint, bar fights, some burglaries and in the summer, boating related accidents. But the world, even here in our idyllic village, is changing, and Ed and I have investigated two murders in almost as many years. Solving them hasn’t been as easy as I expected.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, I love working with Ed, and I adore his wife, Annie, who runs our local historical society and museum. My husband, Matt, who is an emergency room doctor at the hospital in Newark, and I have become friends with them. They live in an old, restored ship captain’s home on the water, and we and our two children have spent many a pleasant afternoon there, barbecuing in their backyard or lazily chugging about the lake on their pontoon.

As any career woman knows, managing both a job and a family can be challenging. Our oldest, Natalya, just turned three, and Arturo is 18-months old. They require a lot of time and attention. Matt is a big help; he recently changed his working hours from nights to days to be home in the evenings to help feed, bathe and put the children to bed, or for when I have meetings or am called to a crime scene.

But still, the children’s needs take precedence, and lately I’ve been wishing I were home more often to spend more time with them. Matt and I are tired a lot; sleeping isn’t an option if you have a sick child or one who jumps into bed with you because she’s had a terrible nightmare or saw monsters in her closet. My remedy for exhaustion is to frequent Bistro Louise, which is located right across the street from my office and serves a wonderful array of coffee drinks- mine are always caffeinated!

So, there you have it. My life as police chief and a mother and wife is certainly busy, but it’s also fulfilling, and I wouldn’t change a thing!

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Murder in the Cemetery: An Edmund DeCleryk Mystery by Karen Shughart

About Murder in the Cemetery

 
Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series 
Publisher: Cozy Cat Press (February 3, 2020)  
Paperback: 279 pages 
On a bright, spring afternoon the body of George Wright, a childhood friend of criminal consultant Edmund DeCleryk, is discovered at a cemetery where casualties of the War of 1812 are buried. After conducting an autopsy, the medical examiner determines that George has been murdered, the cause of death by poisoning. Lighthouse Cove Police Chief Carrie Ramos hires Ed to investigate, with his spunky wife, Annie assisting him.
Suspects include a physician’s assistant, college student and a family member, among others; however, George’s demise may be the result of secrets that have surfaced from the grave. You’ll discover what Ed found on the beach in Murder in the Museum and how that, and an artifact dating back to the early 1800s, are linked to this untimely death.
Annie loves to cook, and at the end of the book she shares recipes for meals she prepared for friends and loved ones.

About Karen Shughart


Karen Shughart studied English Literature at S.U.N.Y Buffalo, received a B.A. in Comprehensive Literature from the University of Pittsburgh and completed graduate courses in English from Shippensburg University. In addition to Murder in the Cemetery (book two of the Edmund DeCleryk Cozy mystery series), she is also the author of Murder in the Museum (book one of the series), two non-fiction books and has worked as an editor, publicist, photographer, journalist, teacher and non-profit executive. Before moving to a small village on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, Karen and her husband resided in south central Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg. To sign up for her blogs and newsletters or for more information, visit her website at https:// www.karenshughart.com.

Author Links:
Website: https://www.karenshughart.com  
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/karenshughartauthor/  
Blog: https://ladiesofmystery.com/karenshughart  
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2094018.Karen_Shughart
Hometown Reads/Rochester Reads: https://hometownreads.com/books/murder-in-the-cemetery LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karen-shughart-738970161/
 

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Friday, March 27, 2020

Murder on Cape Cod - A Review

Review


MURDER ON CAPE COD by Maddie Day
The First Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery

Mackenzie "Mac" Almeida appreciates her life as a small business owner in the Cape Cod hamlet of Westham. Her bicycle rental and repair shop is always busy, she has a wonderful boyfriend, and her cozy mystery book club keeps her mind active. Walking home from a book club meeting she stumbles in the fog, only to realize that she's tripped over the dead body of the local handyman. She also realizes the knife in the dead man looks just like the custom one her half brother owns. Her book club friends are eager to solve a murder mystery, just like their books, while Mac has reservations. But, to protect herself and her brother she decides to organize her fellow sleuths and look into the matter. With so many people discretely investigating, no one could get hurt, right?

The first Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery introduces us to a charming new protagonist. Mac is down to earth, resourceful, and willing to cooperate with the police. A best friend who owns a taffy shop to walk with every morning, an enterprising librarian, a minister father, an astrologist mother, a social grandmother, and a variety of friends create a great foundation to not only support each other, but solve a mystery together. I love dogs and adore cats, but it's nice to see a different type of companion animal in a mystery. Belle, an African Grey parrot. is both sassy and loving, providing an extra layer of character development. Another fun aspect to the series is that Mac's book club is for cozy mysteries! It not only references current books in the genre, it also shows the prejudice some cozy readers face from certain book people!

While MURDER ON CAPE COD is definitely a cozy mystery, and not a bit dark, not everything is perfect in this cozy world. I appreciate the real life touches added to this book, including ex cons and having a main character who is a recovering alcoholic. I also enjoyed meeting characters who happen to have varied ethnic backgrounds, from Cape Verdean to Wampanoag!

MURDER ON CAPE COD brings together a diverse cast of characters in an appealing tourist town. Intelligent snooping by friends and family ensure both a successful investigation and a great start to a new series.

Recipes Included.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Currently Reading...

I'm currently reading Murder on Cape Cod by Maddie Day. This book is the first in the Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery series.

Mackenzie "Mac" Almeida appreciates her life as a small business owner in the Cape Cod hamlet of Westham. Her bicycle rental and repair shop is always busy, she has a wonderful boyfriend, and her cozy mystery book club keeps her mind active. Walking home from a book club meeting she stumbles in the fog, only to realize that she's tripped over the dead body of the local handyman. She also realizes the knife in the dead man looks just like the custom one her half brother owns. Her book club friends are eager to solve a mystery, just like their books, while Mac has reservations. But to protect herself and her brother she decides to organize her fellow sleuths and look into the matter. With so many people discretely investigating, no one could get hurt, right?