Book Review: Kale to the Queen by Nell Hampton

Kale to the Queen
A Kensington Palace Chef Mystery #1
Nell Hampton
Crooked Lane Books, April 2017
ISBN: 978-1-68331-104-1

The basic plot of Kale to the Queen is this. The protagonist, Carrie Ann Cole, has an incredible bit of luck and meets the Duchess of Windsor in New York. Because of this meeting, Carrie Ann is offered the position of personal chef for the royal family in Kensington Palace. When Carrie Ann arrives jet lagged, late and soaking wet from a down pour, she finds that she is in charge of  food for a children’s party that very day. So Carrie Ann is off and running in her new career without having time to catch a breath let alone settle in. Not the greatest of beginnings. Things get considerably worse when she finds one of her assistants dead in the kitchen green house and is questioned by the police. Because Carrie Ann is the protagonist, of course she starts nosing around the investigation and finds out some things that others would like to remain hidden. In the end, things work out for Carrie Ann and presumably we’ll see more of her each Spring for the foreseeable future. This is is a good thing. For while the book and Carrie Ann fall into some of the traps of cozy type mysteries, for the most part this is a solid first book leaving at least this reader wanting more.

Kale to the Queen is the first mystery the author  has written. This is an important point because there are a lot more things that can go wrong in writing mysteries versus other types of fiction. For the most part, Hampton was up to the task. In a mystery the characters, even the minor ones, need to be fairly well developed to make them believable as witnesses and potential suspects. This was done quite well. The plot needs clues for the readers to follow. The author needs to “play fair” with the readers. This was done well. Going right along with that, the plot needs some unexpected twists to keep the readers on their toes and again, this was done, though this could be improved on. Also there were red herrings, but not really enough to camouflage the solution. This left the reader with a good puzzle but  maybe not a great one to solve. Hopefully, now that Carrie Ann and the supporting cast are established, there will be more details to the mystery in following books. The one truly troublesome aspect of this book is that Carrie Ann falls into the “cozy mystery trap” of telling too much to too many people. Not only could this have gotten her hurt or possibly killed, in the real world would probably have resulted in her being fired. As for the standard elements of cozies, yes there are recipes, but just three and at the end of the book, not sprinkled throughout the story. I personally MUCH prefer the recipes at the end. No, Carrie Ann does not have a pet. Yes, there is a potential love interest-both a boyfriend left behind in Chicago and some potentials in England.

I assume I will not be the only reader who from the first page of the book looks for comparisons to Julie Hyzy’s delightful White House Chef books with Ollie Paras as the protagonist. And indeed, there are some easy comparisons to make. Both chefs cook in very high profile positions and are surrounded by tight security measures. Both have some issues with fellow staff members feeling like the chef is not quite up to the position-in Ollie’s case because she is a woman, in Carrie Ann’s case because she is an American. Both protagonists have high demand jobs so much of the action takes place in and around their jobs unlike many cozies where the protagonists seem to be free to treat their jobs more like hobbies than  professions. Also, both protagonists tend to rush into things and share information that perhaps should be given only to the police. By the end of the book though, Carrie Ann has established herself and her series. I look forward to reading many more adventures of Carrie Ann Cole.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St. Clair, March 2017.

Waiting On Wednesday (69)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that
spotlights upcoming releases that I’m really
looking forward to. Waiting On Wednesday
is the creation of Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

Continue reading

Book Review: A Midsummer’s Equation by Keigo Higashino

A Midsummer’s Equation
A Detective Galileo Mystery #3
Keigo Higashino
Minotaur Books, February 2016
ISBN 978-0-2500-2792-4
Hardcover

In The Devotion of Suspect X, the author created not only a first-class, original crime novel, but a singular character: a physicist, Manabu Yukawa, dubbed Dr. Galileo, who turned out to be an excellent amateur detective.  In this sequel, he applies the same scientific logic in helping to solve a murder, although the police believed the death to be an accident.

The new novel is a twisted tale full of unexpected turns in the plot.  It begins with the visit of a fifth-grade young man to a seaside resort on the Japanese coast, to a dilapidated inn run by his uncle and aunt, where he befriends Yukawa, who takes him under his wing, teaching the boy about various scientific principles and helping him with his homework. At the same inn a retired Tokyo homicide detective checks in and is soon discovered dead, presumably after a fall onto rocks lining the coast.

The story is far from a simple murder mystery and has its roots in the past.  The plot is full of surprises.  As was its predecessor, A Midsummer’s Equation is distinguished not only by the scientific content as applied to the case, but the moralistic conclusions as well.  Once again Higashino has written a clever tale that is deep and satisfying, and highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2017.

Using People for Fun and Profit

Marian Allen writes science fiction, fantasy, mystery, humor, horror, mainstream, and anything else she can wrestle into fixed form.

Allen has had stories in on-line and print publications, including multiple appearances in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies. Her latest books are the Sage fantasy trilogy, her science fiction comedy of bad manners Sideshow in the Center Ring, her YA/NA paranormal suspense A Dead Guy at the Summerhouse, her collection of science fiction stories Other Earth, Other Stars, and Shifty, her collection of fantasy stories set in the world of Sage, all from Per Bastet Publications.

Allen is a member of the Southern Indiana Writers Group. She blogs daily at Marian Allen, Author Lady http://MarianAllen.com.

I’m sometimes asked if I actually know people like the people I write about. This is usually asked in a tone that begs me to deny it.

The answer, though, is, “Of course I do!”

I don’t know any one person who is exactly like any one character, but I do take bits and pieces from people I know or see and use those bits and pieces in my writing.

Aunt Libby, a character in a currently out-of-print novel, is based a great deal on my twin aunts. They were both small in stature but large in attitude. They were each on a first-name basis with Jesus and practiced what they preached. Neither one of them was afraid of anything or anybody, and would speak truth to power while shaking a finger in its face. When I decided to use those aspects of them in Aunt Libby, the plot, which had been rather flat, inflated with life.

I used an incident from the youth of one of those aunts in my short story, “The Dragon of North 24th Street,” which was published in Dragonthology, an aptly named anthology of … well  … stories about dragons. When she was a new bride, my aunt heard that a neighborhood prostitute was making a play for my uncle, so my aunt took a knife and blocked the woman from leaving her apartment until she promised to keep away from him. Since the woman needed access to the street in order to ply her trade, not to mention that the necessary facilities were in an outhouse, the promise wasn’t long in coming. It was the perfect story to set up the character of Pearl and foreshadow the manner of the climax’s resolution. It also tickled her descendants, my cousins.

To go farther afield, sometimes I cast some of my characters. I’m a character-actor junkie, and always have been. I especially like people who specialize in playing villains, if they can make those villains juicy and/or well-rounded. Sometimes I cast them as good guys. I get a kick out of writing big leading parts for people who are usually second- or third- (or further down the cast list) level players, and giving them the much harder job of making the good guy juicy and well-rounded.

Anthony Zerbe plays Dr. Andrew Walton in A Dead Guy at the Summerhouse. Jack Weston was the model for Jackie Eastman (Oh! How clever I am!!) in Sideshow in the Center Ring.

Sideshow in the Center Ring was inspired by a photograph I saw of Salvador Dali’s household in the 1970s. Each member was highly, not to say insistently, individual to the point of looking like they were competing for attention. So I imagined what it would be like to live in a social group in which it was your job to show off and to draw attention to your patron, and in which failure to grab enough of the spotlight meant ostracism. The challenge, then, was to create a character who was believable in that role, sympathetic to the reader, and capable of transcending the limitations that had recommended or necessitated such a demeaning life choice. I think Connie Phelan, my abrasive main character, fills that bill.

And, no, I don’t know anybody like her. Relax.

Sideshow in the Center Ring is available at Amazon in print and for Kindle http://bookshow.me/0989971147 , at Untreed Reads in multiple electronic formats http://store.untreedreads.com/index.php?main_page=index&manufacturers_id=85 , in electronic formats through your library (if your library lends eBooks), at many other fine electronic booksellers, or from your friendly neighborhood independent book store http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780989971140 . Seek and ye shall find.

Book Blitz: Darkest Days by N. W. Harris

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Title: Darkest Days
Series: The Last Orphans #4

Author: N. W. Harris
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication Date: May 22, 2017
Genres: Science Fiction,
Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult

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Synopsis

The ancient slave mongers who killed the adults
and enslaved the children have angered a more
advanced species of aliens. Composed of pure
energy, this superior race has attacked the Anunnaki
home world and is now setting a course for Earth.

The energy-based aliens believe in a system of trial
by battle. They seek to push Shane and his friends into
the arena with the ones who killed their parents. The
results will determine if humans deserve to live, or if
they should be made extinct as well. It’s up to Shane
to keep his friends—and an army of kids who look up
to him—alive. They’ll be fighting not just for their own
lives, but for the fate of the entire human race. Can the
enemy of Shane’s enemy be his friend, or is this just
another species determined to exploit and destroy them?

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // iBooks
Smashwords // Amazon

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A Few Words from the Author

If all the adults suddenly were wiped from the face of the planet, would law and order be a thing of the past, or would the children create their own? My opinion, the children would eventually create their own new version of law and order. The systems that are in place today are there because of a functioning infrastructure. If all the adults are gone, that infrastructure will fail. In my opinion, there will be initial chaos, then groups of children will start to conglomerate. Some groups will be bad and some good. Some of the kids will try to find ways to shelter and feed themselves by farming, hunting, fishing, etc. Others will make their living by stealing from those good children. At first, justice will be swift, frequently violent and without trial. As those that are determined to rebuild by making honest livings settled into their new lifestyles, I believe they’d make militias to protect their families and food. Next they’d create tribunals and hold some sort of court for criminals. Like in the in the Wild West, some of these new justice forces would inevitably become corrupt. Over time, I believe the children would thrive and society would be reborn. But I’m a bit of an optimist (my stories may not always seem to reflect that.) J

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About the Author

Born at the end of the Vietnam war and raised on a horse farm near small town north Georgia, his imagination evolved under the swaying pines surrounding his family’s log home. On summer days that were too hot, winter days that were too cold, and every night into the wee morning hours, he read books. He lives in sunny southern California with his beautiful wife and two perfect children.
Author links: 

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Architecture and Murder

Susan Cory lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her architect husband and bossy rescue dog. Like her sleuth, she is a residential architect practicing out of a turreted office. Also, like Iris Reid, she has a brown belt in karate.

Susan grew up in New Jersey devouring mysteries. She loved seeing order restored by ingenious sleuths. But the visual arts were her medium of expression. As an Art major at Dartmouth, she imagined that designing buildings was just a larger-scaled version of creating sculpture. Susan soon discovered the many differences. At graduate school at Harvard’s G.S.D., she found a setting—insecurities and egos riding a runaway train of Design Obsession—just ripe for murder.

Conundrum and Facade are odes to Susan’s profession and all the deviously clever practitioners within it. She’s hard at work on Book 3 in the series in which Iris Reid will continue to uncover pools of evil in her world.

The mystery world is filled with sleuths who are cops, P.I.s, lawyers, bookstore owners, caterers, ministers—practitioners of every profession but Susan’s own, architecture. Aren’t we problem solvers? Don’t we find ourselves deeply enmeshed in other people’s lives? Don’t we passionately defend our beliefs? Clearly the architecture world has been ignored as a mystery setting, and architects have been neglected as sleuths and, yes, murderers. In my graduate program alone at Harvard’s G.S.D., I found a setting ripe for murder. Egos were flying, and critics would reduce sleep-deprived students to tears and screaming matches at final juries. Later, out in the real world, a tiny handful of architects would claim all the plum commissions, as a single architect each year would be awarded the Pritzker Prize, ratcheting them to Starchitect status.

Several years ago, I decided to remedy this oversight by writing the Iris Reid series. Iris designs houses in Cambridge, Ma., while her loyal Basset hound, Sheba, sleeps nearby inside the fireplace hearth. Iris spends her days hunched over a drafting table in her turreted home office, or butting heads with sexist contractors at construction sites. She spends her nights with the sexy neighborhood chef. Her loyal friend, Ellie, has her back.

I started writing the first book, Conundrum, in my head while attending my own 20th GSD reunion, reconnecting with back-stabbing, competitive classmates. (In fairness, there were plenty of nice, normal fellow students, but they aren’t as much fun to write about as the prima donnas.) In this book, Iris also returns to her 20th Architecture School reunion, only to discover the body of her former GSD boyfriend at a neo-Modernist house she’s designed. That part did not happen to me.

In the second book, Facade, Iris agrees to teach a design studio at GSD. A charismatic Dutch starchitect, also teaching that semester, lures Iris into his world. When a local schoolgirl goes missing after visiting the man’s office, Iris is his only alibi. But can she actually vouch for his innocence?

You can order the ebooks and paperbacks at:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01F6K8O2E and at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/susan+cory?_requestid=1130254
Please visit Susan at her website: http://www.susancory.com/ and tell her what you think of the books at: https://www.facebook.co/authorsusancory

Book Blitz: The Kate Clifford Mystery Series by Candace Robb

Please join author Candace Robb as her
Kate Clifford Mystery Series is featured
around the blogosphere, from May 9-24.

The Service of the Dead
by Candace Robb

Paperback Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Pegasus Books
Paperback; 256 Pages

Series: Kate Clifford Mysteries, Book One
Genre: Historical/Mystery/Thriller

 

 

Expertly recreating the social and political upheavals of late medieval Europe, Candace Robb introduces a new series starring Kate Clifford, a woman forged on the warring northern marches of fourteenth century England.

Political unrest permeates York at the cusp of the fifteenth century, as warring factions take sides on who should be the rightful king–Richard II or his estranged, powerful cousin in exile, Henry Bolingbroke. Independent minded twenty-year-old Kate Clifford is struggling to dig out from beneath the debt left by her late husband. Determined to find a way to be secure in her own wealth and establish her independence in a male dominated society, Kate turns one of her properties near the minster into a guest house and sets up a business. In a dance of power, she also quietly rents the discreet bedchambers to the wealthy, powerful merchants of York for nights with their mistresses.

But the brutal murder of a mysterious guest and the disappearance of his companion for the evening threatens all that Kate has built. Before others in town hear word of a looming scandal, she must call upon all of her hard-won survival skills to save herself from ruin.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Praise for The Service of the Dead

“Robb’s deft hand creates a realistic political and
commercial climate as King Richard II’s reign draws
to a close in 1399. Comparable to Sara Poole’s Poisoner
mysteries and Ariana Franklin’s Adelia Aguilar series, with its
strong political setting and multiple plot strands.” (Booklist)

“A historical novel that deftly captures politics and
interactions between different social interests in late
medieval England…against the backdrop of social
pressures and military actions, Kate’s character and
world shine and draw readers into her choices
and challenges.” (California Bookwatch)

“Kate Clifford is a wonderful creation, hard-nosed in
some respects, compassionate and caring on the other.
I look forward to the next installment of this delightful
series!” (Historical Novels Review)

“The novel resonates with its compelling portrayal
of an England on the brink of crisis.” (Publishers Weekly)

“The Service of the Dead is a tasty brew of political
intrigue, larceny, and murder set within the walls
of medieval York. Candace Robb’s latest historical
mystery is steeped in the atmosphere of the late fourteenth
century, and in Kate Clifford she’s given us a no-nonsense
heroine and sleuth who is not only smart, but fierce when
those she cares about are threatened. You’re going to
love her.” (Patricia Bracewell, author of the
Emma of Normandy Trilogy)

“The Service of the Dead by Candace Robb is a strikingly
well-crafted novel that is a compelling page-turner from
beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community
library historical fiction collections.” (Midwest Book Review)

A Twisted Vengeance
by Candace Robb

Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Pegasus Books
Hardcover; 400 Pages

Series: Kate Clifford Mysteries, Book Two
Genre: Historical/Mystery/Thriller

 

As the fourteenth century comes to a close, York seethes on the brink of civil war?and young widow Kate Clifford, struggling to keep her businesses afloat, realizes that her mother is harboring a dangerous secret…

1399. York is preparing for civil war, teeming with knights and their armed retainers summoned for the city’s defense. Henry of Lancaster is rumored to have landed on the northeast coast of England, not so far from York, intent on reclaiming his inheritance, an inheritance which his cousin, King Richard, has declared forfeit.

With the city unsettled and rife with rumors, Eleanor Clifford’s abrupt return to York upon the mysterious death of her husband in Strasbourg is met with suspicion in the city. Her daughter Kate is determined to keep her distance, but it will not be easy?Eleanor has settled next door with the intention of establishing a house of beguines, or poor sisters. When one of the beguines is set upon in the night by an intruder, Kate knows that for the sake of her own reputation and the safety of her young wards she must investigate.

From the first, Eleanor is clearly frightened yet maintains a stubborn silence. The brutal murder of one of Eleanor’s servants leads Kate to suspect that her mother’s troubles have followed her from Strasbourg. Is she secretly involved in the political upheaval? When one of her wards is frightened by a too-curious stranger, Kate is desperate to draw her mother out of her silence before tragedy strikes her own household.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Praise for A Twisted Vengeance

“Lovers of Shakespeare’s Richard II will find Robb’s
intricate sequel to 2016’s The Service of the Dead a
particular treat, as it charts the course of Richard’s
downfall and his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke’s
rise through the fears and uncertainties of the residents
of the city of York in July 1399. These anxieties are
worsened by a series of strange deaths connected to the
extended family of Kate Clifford, a fierce young widow
struggling to cope with not only her own household
of jostling servants and the recently arrived illegitimate
children of her late husband but also the return of
her
quarrelsome mother, Eleanor, from Strasbourg with
religious women in tow. The character of Clifford is
compelling and finely drawn, and for those readers
who are patient enough to manage an unusually large
number of secondary characters, the answers to a series of
mysteries, starting with the reason for an intruder’s attack
on a beguine (or poor sister) in the middle of the night,
are highly satisfying.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

About the Author

Candace Robb did her graduate work in medieval literature and history, and has continued to study the period while working first as an editor of scientific publications and now for some years as a freelance writer. Candace has published 13 crime novels set in 14th century England, Wales, and Scotland. The Owen Archer series is based in York and currently extends over 10 novels beginning with THE APOTHECARY ROSE; the most recent is A VIGIL OF SPIES. The Margaret Kerr trilogy explores the early days of Scotland’s struggle again England’s King Edward I, and includes A TRUST BETRAYED, THE FIRE IN THE FLINT, and A CRUEL COURTSHIP.

Writing as Emma Campion, Candace has published historical novels about two fascinating women she encountered while researching the Owen Archer mysteries, Alice Perrers (THE KING’S MISTRESS) and Joan of Kent (A TRIPLE KNOT).

Candace was born in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has lived most of her adult life in Seattle, Washington, which she and her husband love for its combination of natural beauty and culture. Candace enjoys walking, hiking, and gardening, and practices yoga and vipassana meditation. She travels frequently to Great Britain.

For more information, please visit Candace Robb’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Book Blast Schedule

Tuesday, May 9
Passages to the Past

Wednesday, May 10
The Reading Queen

Thursday, May 11
Carole Rae’s Random Ramblings
The Paperback Princess

Friday, May 12
Jo’s Book Blog

Saturday, May 13
The Never Ending Book

Monday, May 15
A Book Geek

Tuesday, May 16
So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, May 17
Book Nerd

Friday, May 19
Books, Dreams, Life

Saturday, May 20
Buried Under Books

Monday, May 22
The Book Junkie Reads

Tuesday, May 23
The Lit Bitch
A Literary Vacation

Wednesday, May 24
T’s Stuff