Saturday, July 25, 2015

'Married To Murder' & 'Masked Rider: Origins' On Sale Through July 31, 2015

I've taken advantage of the Smashwords July Summer/Winter Sale, and I've put two stories on sale.

Married To Murder, the Ella Westin series starter, is FREE through July 31, 2015.
Just enter the code "SW100" at checkout.

*****

If you like Married To Murder, be sure to continue reading with Honeymoon Homicide 99¢.


Ella is awakened in the middle of the night by her new husband. But it's not what you think – he wants her to solve a murder. At 4 a.m. Can she do it? Or will she add another homicide to her honeymoon?

This is the second story in the Ella Westin Mysteries.

8,383 words.

*****

Need more Ella? Try Toxic Train 99¢!


When a fellow train passenger is murdered right in front of her eyes, newlywed Ella Westin thinks it's great that all the suspects are trapped with her. But when she can't check out backgrounds or confirm motives - or lack of - she soon finds herself in over her head. 

Then an unthinking Joe seems more determined to sabotage Ella's efforts than the murderer. Will she be able to solve the case before a second death occurs? Did the murderer engineer too good a crime for even Ella's skills? Can she track the criminal or will she be derailed before she can put her plan in motion? If the couple survive, is this just the beginning of a toxic relationship?

This is the third story in the Ella Westin Mysteries.

19,968 words.

*****

Now you can pre-order the fourth installment of the Ella Westin Mysteries at Barnes and Noble or the Apple store!

Unpacking the Undertaker - 99¢

Ella is back from her honeymoon and is moving into her new home. She unpacked a particularly heavy crate and got a nasty shock. All she wanted to do was put her books on the bookshelf. Is it too late to close the crate and send it back?


#4 in the Ella Westin Mysteries coming December 27, 2015


*****

Can't get enough of Ella's"retired" pirate father-in-law?
Read Ella & Jasper Shorts for FREE.


When Ella marries Joe Westin, she inherits a father-in-law who gets her into more trouble than the bad guys. As a former thief turned government agent, Ella thinks she’s up for any assignment that comes her way, but Jasper Westin just might be more than she can handle.

In Ernest Effort, a parrot-keeper is kidnapped, and a dangerous pirate orders Ella to find his son immediately. Not one to give in to demands, Ella makes an announcement that stuns everyone.

In Missing Monkey, Jasper’s cohorts have misplaced their pet monkey, but the primate isn't the only thing that’s vanished. Ella needs to track the monkey down before nightfall or Jasper will pay the consequences.

In Close Quarters, Ella is in a grim predicament—she and Jasper are about to be hanged for murder, and while she’s armed to the teeth, the only weapon at her disposal is her tongue. What could go wrong?

Set in the 1820s, these three quick reads offer a fun glimpse into Ella’s new family life.

Ernest Effort (2,205 words)
Missing Monkey (1,479 words)
Close Quarters (3,500 words)

*****

And if you can't get enough of Westins in general, check out Masked Rider: Origins - also on sale through July 31, 2015. 50% off!
Just enter the code "SSW50" at checkout.


Friday, January 9, 2015

'Except the Dying' by Maureen Jennings


"In the middle of the bitterly cold winter of 1895 in Toronto, the naked body of a young servant girl has recently been discovered in a deserted laneway. Detective William Murdoch must determine the reason why she died under such miserable circumstances. To catch his criminal, Murdoch crosses the class lines of a society that still clings to a British hierarchical system, and behind the chenille curtains of the wealthy, he uncovers personalities capable of committing ugly crimes."
-Book Description


My Review:

I fell in love with the Murdoch Mysteries TV show and saw it was based on novels. So I decided to read the first novel and checked out reviews on Goodreads to see how the books were. The show is a bit graphic in the autopsy room and I wondered if the books were gory. What people said was, 'if you like the TV show, you'll love the books'.

Those people could not be more wrong.

I don't get it. The show has a fine sense of humor. Murdoch is known for trying out cutting edge techniques in law enforcement. Constable George Crabtree is a young man, fresh-faced, unmarried, always coming up with crazy theories and loyal almost to a fault. (I crave 'George-theories'! Like when a body was discovered in a tree with no footprints anywhere. No one can figure it out. Murdoch and George talk about it and George says, "Most of my conclusions I've had to rule out due to sheer impossibility but the most feasible solution I've come to is that he was shot out of a canon." I fell in love with him just a little bit more when he said that.)

In the books, Murdoch just goes around town asking people about their whereabouts. He uses almost no other technique to find the murderer. He doesn't like anybody he works with, except Crabtree, who gets maybe five minutes in the book. Crabtree is a massive fellow with about six kids. There is no humor that I could discern.

The book was very well written, I just didn't like it. Not only was I expecting a similar experience to the show (since the show is based on the books and since reviews indicated they were alike) and quite disappointed that didn't pan out.

The book was harsh and I'm not talking about the weather. (A girl is found dead in the snow during a bitter winter in Toronto. I read it while we, here in Chicago, were having another day of 30 below zero, wind chill.) The attitude toward women is deplorable. The language used throughout the book is callous. I'm not easily offended but 255 pages of reading about how woman are barely good for one thing left a nasty taste in my mouth.

All the characters smelled, almost all of them were dirty, living in awful conditions and the overall feel of the book was depressing and morose. Furthermore, every single person in the book is sick, either physically or mentally, except for one man introduced toward the end. This is not a cheerful book. I'm not saying it should be, I just don't understand how the show came from it and why other people stated I'd like it.

Try for yourself if you like, my only problems are personal preference so go for it. Make up your own mind.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

'A Christmas Arrangement' by Annie Adams



 
About the book:
 
"It's Christmastime in Hillside, but there's a lack of holiday spirit for flower shop owner Quincy McKay. She's in charge of the town festival and her shop's open house, but her Santa's a no-show and her flower cooler is on the fritz. To make matters worse, she's learned her ex-husband isn't as ex as she'd thought. Just when she thought things couldn't get any worse, her boyfriend, hot cop Alex Cooper announces his parents are coming to town.

Alex Cooper is the perfect man in Quincy's book, but unfortunately his mother thinks so too. And no woman is perfect enough for her perfect son, but especially not the weird flower shop girl who works too much, can't cook and who she catches kissing another man in the department store. And what's this she hears about Quincy being married? Eleanor Cooper must help her son dodge a bullet (and not the kind from his job) during the romantic holiday season to prevent him from being ensnared in a regrettable relationship.

Quincy's dignity (of which lately she's in short supply), her reputation, and every business in town are riding upon the success of the city's Christmas celebration. If she can figure out a way to make it work despite failing equipment, helpers dropping out of the picture as fast as snowflakes in a blizzard, a troubling and inappropriate Secret Santa, and the possibility of arrest, she might win the respect of everyone in the town, but more importantly, Alex's parents.

If Alex can survive his loving but meddling mother until Christmas, and keep Quincy safe from her crazy ex-husband, with a little help from the MLM (Mormon Ladies Mafia), and K.C. the she-Santa, he'll arrange for the perfect holiday for himself and the woman who has captured his heart.
"
 
My Review:
 
     A Christmas Arrangement was fun - an entertaining read. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters in this book. Now, this is unfair to the author, but I was really annoyed at first because I was under the impression it was a cozy mystery when in fact, it’s a light-hearted, humorous romance. Part of my confusion was due to the fact I found this book in a cozy mystery thread on Goodreads, and the other part was because this is part of a mystery series. But, I enjoyed the story so much that I dropped my annoyance of waiting for a victim, waiting for a murder investigation, waiting for what I thought was foreshadowing and clues to pan out – that when I finished reading, I went straight to the first book in this series, The Final Arrangement.

     Some of the crazy situations Quincy (the main character) got into were so far-fetched you knew they were contrived (breaking that fourth wall) but Quincy was such a delight to read that I didn’t mind. The humor was seamless, the action gripping, the suspense delicious and the characters awesome.

     I loved this story!

Friday, December 19, 2014

'Mousetrap' Play (Agatha Christie)

 
"On a snowy night at Monkswell Manor, newlyweds Mollie and Giles welcome a group of strangers to their guest house, only to discover news of a murderer in their midst! A police investigation reveals the sordid details of each guest's mysterious past, but not soon enough to stop the killer from striking again. Agatha Christie's masterful whodunit weaves an intricate plot filled with nerve-rattling suspense, all leading up to the ultimate final twist!"
-From the website


Mom took me to see Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap at the Footlights Theater last Saturday. We handed over our tickets and walked into the  main theater. I followed Mom. She walked down the steps…past seats…past half the rows…past all of the rows. We sat in the first row! When I stretched my leg out, my foot was on the level stage. During the performance, sometimes the actors would walk toward us and I actually hunched back a couple of times because they were so close – it was great!



The actors did a splendid job.
 
Joey deBettencourt played Christopher Wren and he was superb. He reminded me of David Tennant in Randall and Hopkirk - completely crazy and awesome. He laughed at inappropriate times and made the other characters feel so uncomfortable that you felt uncomfortable. Then he would break out in song or say something so off-the-wall that the audience laughed, thus lifting the tension.
 
Greg Matthew Anderson was also wonderful as Sergeant Trotter. He was thoroughly enjoyable to watch. I found myself staring at Joey deBettencourt or Greg Matthew Anderson when they were on stage, even if they weren't talking or the focus was elsewhere.
 
Patrick Clear played Major Metcalf and he reminded me of every kind, old, retired military person ever played in any movie, TV or play - and that's meant as a compliment. He was perfect and played his part to perfection. (And he was on Early Edition!)
 
Laura T. Fisher was Mrs. Boyle. She, also, played her part to perfection. She got all the straight lines that others would play off.
 
Lindsey Pearlman as Miss Casewell was a perfect fit. She was Miss Casewell. When she wasn't delivering a line, she was listening, reacting. She was fantastic.
 
Joe Dempsey played Mr. Paravicini and I loved how he used the accent to make his character come alive. Mr. Paravicini was another one who was a little bit crazy and said the most inappropriate things at the worst times - delightful for the audience, not so much for the other characters. (And he was on Early Edition, too!)
 
Cora Vander Broek played Mollie Ralston and was a delight to watch. All she wanted to do was run her new bed-and-breakfast but everything conspired against her, from the weather to her strange guests and, of course, a killer.
 
Keith Neagle played Giles Ralston, Mollie's husband. He was excellent! Whenever his character was interrupted, he held back, looking like he either wanted to murder the person or wait for his turn to speak. You weren't sure which!
 
The clothes were old fashioned, the set dressed simply but elegantly and the accents were pretty good. I think my favorite detail was the snow outside the window. Facing our awesome seats - a little to the right - a big picture window (that opened and closed, allowing two characters to exit as needed) seemed to look outside. You knew it led backstage, you knew we were deep inside a building, in a windowless room, yet it really looked like a huge winter storm blew outside this fake window. “Snow” fell during the entire play. There was a sound, natural and familiar. It was low enough that you didn’t quite realize you were hearing a blowing wind. I think the scene was set so perfectly that we all fell for it. I know it was the middle of December and it’s quite possible the theater was kept cold, but I was freezing. At intermission, I looked around to see if it was just me, but everyone was huddled in their winter coats. I still don’t know if it was the temperature or our minds.

The performances were so enjoyable and the time flew by.  Naturally, afterward, Mom and I talked about all sorts of little details of the mystery and how it compared to the actual book – without spoilers because I haven’t read this one (or did so, so long ago that I don’t remember it). There was a whole character Mom didn’t remember being in the book. I also got an idea for a mystery plot, too. Nothing like what was in the play but something made me think of a cool line to travel down. (I'll have to remember to link to this post after I write it!)
 
We went home and I went to a Christmas party. We met up later in the evening at our writer’s group's game night. She told me while I was at the party, she went to the bookcase and reread Mousetrap.

All in all, a lovely, wonderful evening.

Thank you, Mom!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Foodies Read 2015 Reading Challenge




Vicki from I'd Rather Be At the Beach is hosting this cool challenge.

Vicki defined a "food book" as one centered around food and/or drinks. This can be any genre, even non-fiction.

The challenge runs from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015.

You don't need a pre-selected list of books.
It's okay to cross over with other challenges.
Any book format is allowed (print, audio, ebook)

Levels:
Short Order Cook: 1 to 3 books
Pastry Chef: 4 to 8 books
Sous-Chef: 9 to 13 books
Chef de Cuisine: 14 to 18 books
Cordon-Bleu Chef: More than 19 books

I'm going for Short Order Cook. As a cozy mystery reader, I'm sure I'll be surprised at reading my fair share of food-related books this coming year!

Monday, December 8, 2014



About the book:

"Darcy Sweet would like to think that she is just an ordinary woman, happy in her life running the Sweet Read bookstore. But she isn't ordinary. She has a connection to the other side that seems to draw her into mysterious situations more often than not. Add to the mix the antics of a rather naughty, slightly psychic cat and the eccentric ghost of her great-aunt Millie, and you have a recipe for anything but the ordinary.

When Darcy's neighbor is murdered she is drawn into the mystery against her will when she finds the body. She tries to leave the investigation to the police, one of which is her sister, but an overheard conversation and a small nudge from the other side has her investigating the murder. The stakes are raised when the murderer strikes again. Who was killing the people in her life?

Things are complicated even more by her building attraction to her sister's new cop partner, who makes it clear he does not appreciate Darcy's interference in the investigation. Sparks fly between the two of them as they get further into the mystery surrounding the deaths.

With a town full of suspects how will Darcy work out who the murderer is? None of the pieces to the puzzle fit. Things become more complicated and dangerous as Darcy's own life is threatened. Will she survive to see justice served?"


I read this book and below is my review:

The story was okay. It moved fast, but not in the way I like. Darcy (the main character) would get an idea about the mystery and then go follow it and change mid-course for seemingly no reason. We didn't get to follow along with her, we were more along for the ride without knowing where we were going or why. This left me feeling like an outsider as opposed to a participant.

There were questions I had that were never answered - not loose ends but things that didn't make sense. I can't really give an example without spoiling the book. At one point, a character is somewhere and will be there for a long time. Minutes later, that character is suddenly somewhere else, with no explanation or even a passing thought of our character wondering how it was possible. Also, Darcy would suspect somebody (for no reason) and then dismiss them as a suspect (for no reason). There was even one point where she suspected someone and questioned them, found out the person had no alibi and then thought to herself, she didn't' really think it was that person anyway. Huh?

The characters weren't fully fleshed out, either, but I liked them anyway. Even though we didn't get deep into anyone's life or deep into a mystery or follow accurate police procedures, it was still a fun read. I enjoyed the story. Darcy is a nice character and pretty upbeat, even in the midst of murder and deceit. Even though I didn't feel as connected to her as I would have liked, I still got to enjoy her story.

Oh, and I love the cat.

K.J. Emrick