Book Review: Haunting Investigation by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Haunting Investigation
A Chesterton Holte Mystery #5
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Smoke & Shadow Books, December 2015
ISBN: 978-1-943052-01-1
Hardcover

First of all, detective Chesterton Holte is a ghost, and only newspaper reporter Poppy Thornton can see or hear him⏤aside from her Aunt Jo’s old dog and the cat. And the only reason he’s haunting her is because he directly led to her father being executed as a spy during World War I and this is his way of making it up to her.

The year is 1924 and the country is still reeling not only from the war, but from the millions of lives lost to the Spanish Flu. Women are taking jobs usually considered the male prerogative and Poppea Thornton is one of them. She is a budding newspaper reporter, up to now assigned to the society pages as she is one of Philadelphia’s upper crust. But when one of society’s own is murdered, Poppy, to her satisfaction, receives the job of reporting the news. In her duties, she meets a handsome police detective, which serves her well when she becomes the murderer’s target, but it is the ghost, Chesterton Holte, who helps Poppy root out the clues.

Against a whole lot of opposition, Poppy works hard and diligently to make her way in a man’s world.

I liked the characters. I formed good pictures of Aunt Jo, cousin Stacy, the widow, and all the others. The setting is well done. I enjoyed the descriptions of the cars, the attire of the day, and especially, the food and drink⏤lots of drink. And during prohibition, too, wink, wink. However, the murder methods seemed odd to me. Also, there didn’t seem to be any real resolution to the story, ending more with a whimper than a bang. Even so, I enjoyed the journey with Poppy and Holte and Detective Loring. One assumes it is to be continued.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, October 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

My Ukuleles…I May Have a Problem…and a Giveaway!

Leslie Langtry is the USA Today Bestselling author of three cozy comedy series. She lives in the Midwest with her family and a few cats who do not appreciate her. And she hoards ukuleles (she might need an intervention).

Leslie Langtry’s first book in her Ukulele Mystery Series, Ukulele Murder, is on sale for 99c from April 10-16! You can check it out with the other books in the Aloha Lagoon Mysteries here:

http://www.gemmahalliday.com/Aloha_Lagoon/books-leslie.html

After a long day of writing, I decompress by messing around with the ukulele. The results aren’t pretty, but I enjoy it. I can play a few songs (for some strange reason they’re all Beatles songs and Edelweiss), and I’m just now taking lessons like from a real professional musician and everything. So now, I can read tabs and notes and fingerpick (albeit very, very slowly) a few more songs, including the Theme from Batman (I’m nothing if not eclectic), Fur Elise and Haele – a Hawaiian song.

My Grandpa Smiley played ukulele. Fun little songs like Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey & Harvest Moon. That’s his instrument above on the far left. I can’t really play it because the tuning pegs are shot. It’s a sweet little uke.

The green instrument next to Grandpa’s is a Waterman by KALA. It’s waterproof, made of a tough plastic that still resonates well. I’m taking it with me to Florida for the Novelists Inc conference in October. My husband thinks I bought it just for that one event. He may not be wrong…

The middle uke is a Kahuna ukulele. I bought that one because I liked the hula girl and tiki on it. AND it has pink strings! It was a completely frivolous buy but I couldn’t resist. Who doesn’t want a uke with pictures and pink strings? It seems like a no-brainer to me.

Which may be why my first uke was the KALA Pineapple uke, second from the right. Several years ago, on a whim, my friend Michele and I decided to buy ukes and take a group class at West Music. This is us:

Michelle, rocking her sweet Hawaiian Punch hat

Anyway, my friend bought a normal, hourglass shaped blue uke. And I bought one that looked like a pineapple. Literally.  I guess I can’t do things like everyone else. Anyway – it’s a nice instrument with a little more of a mellow sound, probably because of its shape. It’s my go-to uke for my private lessons.

The last instrument is a KALA Travel Soprano. It’s a smidge smaller and half the width of the other ukes. When I was paying for it, my daughter asked why I needed it.

“Because it’s smaller,” I said, assuming this made sense to everyone.

She rolled her eyes, “Oh, right. Like an instrument like the ukulele needs a smaller version…”

I suspect she was being sarcastic.

Oh well. I love the ukulele and the calluses on my fingertips from playing. Maybe someday, I’ll be able to play more than a few songs. I doubt I’ll ever be a virtuoso, but that doesn’t matter. Playing around with this instrument relaxes me. And that’s all that matters.

Right?

Leslie Langtry’s first book in her Ukulele Mystery Series, Ukulele Murder, is on sale for 99c from April 10-16! You can check it out with the other books in the Aloha Lagoon Mysteries here:

http://www.gemmahalliday.com/Aloha_Lagoon/books-leslie.html

Ukulele Murder (A Nani Johnson Mystery)
Aloha Lagoon Mysteries book #1

Nani Johnson thought she had it made when she moved from Kansas to the resort town of Aloha Lagoon, Kauai. In spite of her certifiably crazy mom, Nani is determined that nothing will stop her from becoming a ukulele virtuoso! Unfortunately her Julliard training doesn’t help her break into the local music scene due to some heavy competition from the Terrible Trio—three hostile, local musicians. The only work she finds is a few bar mitzvahs and gigs at the kitschy Blue Hawaii Wedding Chapel.

But when one of Nani’s competitors drops dead right after a public feud, Nani becomes the police’s main suspect. A missing murder weapon, mysterious threats, and a heck of a frame-up job all have Nani worrying she’ll be trading in her flowery muumuus for prison orange. Enter hunky local botanist Nick Woodfield, who just might be able to help her clear her name…that is if he doesn’t have secrets of his own. With the bodies stacking up, the danger closing in, and the authorities circling, Nani must track down a killer…before she ends up the latest victim of the Ukulele Murderer!

BUY LINKS:

Amazon // B&N // iBooks // Google Play

Kobo // Smashwords // Print

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In addition to the 99c sale of
Ukulele Murder, Leslie is giving
away a signed, print copy of
the book to one lucky US
commenter on today’s post!
The winning name will be drawn
on Wednesday evening, April 19th.

 

Book Review: Presumed Puzzled by Parnell Hall

Presumed Puzzled
A Puzzle Lady Mystery #17
Parnell Hall
Minotaur Books, January 2016
ISBN: 978-1-2500-6123-2
Hardcover

The Puzzle Lady novels are meant to be cute, and this one has some light moments, but since the lady in question ends up tried for murder it turns out to be anything but.  Actually, there are two courtroom scenes. First, the wife of the murder victim is initially charged with the crime, but halfway through the trial those charges are dismissed when a witness for the prosecution provides an alibi for her and another implicates Cora Felton, the Puzzle Lady.

It seems Cora was having an affair with the murdered man, and the irony is that she is employed by the wife’s attorney to find him after the wife reports him missing when he doesn’t come home from work.  And, to add insult to injury, Cora accompanies the Police Chief to his home only to discover him lying on the floor, having bled to death, and his wife covered with blood holding a butcher knife.

A series of clues appear to indicate Cora is guilty, and the courtroom drama plays out until she unravels the mystery by testifying for the prosecution in her own trial in typical Puzzle Lady fashion. While events throughout both trials are dramatic and push the story forward, it is unlikely that such occurrences could possibly take place in a real trial.  Of course, there is always a last minute fact or witness that occasionally pop up in real life, but hardly to the extent that this plot requires.  Other than this objection, the Puzzle Lady mysteries are always cute and fun, and so is this novel.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, January 2017.

Searching for Golden Words

Terry Shames writes the best-selling Samuel Craddock series, set in small-town Texas. The series has received multiple award nominations. A Killing at Cotton Hill won the 2013 Macavity Award for Best First Mystery.  In 2015, MysteryPeople named Shames one of the top five Texas mystery writers. An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock, a prequel, out January 3, 2017, received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, which dubbed the novel, “Superior….a prequel with resonance in the era of Black Lives Matter.” She is published by Seventh Street Books. Find out more at www.Terryshames.com.

Terry Shames
An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock, out January 3, 2017 
“A favorite of fans who like their police procedurals with a strong ethical center…”  Kirkus Reviews, Fall, 2016

Newsletter sign-up: http://terryshames. com/contact.php

I got a new desk! The old desk was one I hauled into my office when my son went off to college twelve years ago. It was actually only part of a desk—in fact, all it really provided was a surface. Not only that, it was ugly. I spend hours in my office every day, churning out words. So I finally decided it was time for me to have an actual desk. I knew exactly what I wanted, an old-fashioned desk with small drawers and one big file drawer. I wanted wood, preferably painted a nice color that would go with my office. I thought the chance of actually finding “my” desk would take forever, if I found it at all.

To my utter amazement I found it immediately on Craigslist. A young woman in the area refinishes furniture for fun and to make a little money on the side. It was well-priced and I loved it immediately. Not only that but she delivered it. In the rain.

Getting a new desk should not have been a big deal except that with a new desk, I decided it was time to clean out all the detritus in my office. In particular, I resolved to tackle my old manuscripts. When I moved into the office years ago, I carefully saved them, thinking that one day I may go back and find Golden Words among the hundreds of thousands I had written.  Time to take a look. I had kept multiple versions of some of them. The least I could do was toss all but one version.

Maybe it was a result of gifting myself with the new desk, but I looked at the manuscripts with a steely eye. And that eye told me that I had been kidding myself. Detritus is a kind word for what most of those manuscripts contained. They were my first efforts at becoming a novelist and they showed it. The prose was just okay, the characters were flat and the plots predictable at best. So out they went!

The more I dumped, the freer I felt. There was one manuscript in particular that I had for years imagined could be revised. All I could think as I read it was, “Who was I kidding?” I actually laughed when I put it in the recycling bin.

A couple of them had sentimental value—like my first full manuscript, a science fiction story that I still like. And there were a couple that had pretty good story lines that I might one day revive. But other than that—GONE!

As I read I realized how I had grown as a writer. Those pages represented many, many hours of learning how to write. If you had asked me at the time, I would have said these books were perfectly good and that publishers who turned me down were wrong. These days, I might have even made the mistake of thinking they were ready to publish and published them myself. But they weren’t ready. There were no Golden Words—just okay ones. And as I’ve learned, “okay” is not good enough.

I haven’t regretted for one minute tossing all that paper. In fact, sometimes I peek over at the few that are left and think, “When I need that space, you’re out of here!”

Book Review: The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton

The Hideaway
Lauren K. Denton
Thomas Nelson, April 2017
ISBN 978
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

After her last remaining family member dies, Sara Jenkins goes home to The Hideaway, her grandmother Mags’s ramshackle B&B in Sweet Bay, Alabama. She intends to quickly tie up loose ends then return to her busy life and thriving antique shop in New Orleans. Instead, she learns Mags has willed The Hideaway to her and charged her with renovating it—no small task considering her grandmother’s best friends, a motley crew of senior citizens, still live there.

Rather than hurrying back to New Orleans, Sara stays in Sweet Bay and begins the biggest house-rehabbing project of her career. Amid drywall dust, old memories, and a charming contractor, she discovers that slipping back into life at The Hideaway is easier than she expected.

Then she discovers a box Mags left in the attic with clues to a life Sara never imagined for her grandmother. With help from Mags’s friends, Sara begins to piece together the mysterious life of bravery, passion, and choices that changed her grandmother’s destiny in both marvelous and devastating ways.

When an opportunistic land developer threatens to seize The Hideaway, Sara is forced to make a choice—stay in Sweet Bay and fight for the house and the people she’s grown to love or leave again and return to her successful but solitary life in New Orleans.

When it comes to eye-catching book covers, The Hideaway is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Immediately, it made me think of summers on a Southern front porch of an old house with floor-to-ceiling windows and, in fact, that’s exactly what this book is about, an old house that’s as much a character as its humans. I’d like to acknowledge the artist but the advance reading copy I have doesn’t give the name. Whoever it is, kudos!

If it weren’t for the fact that running a bed and breakfast requires much more labor than I’ve ever been willing to do, it has always appealed to me but Sara’s reluctance to restore The Hideaway to its former life is understandable. Sara has her own life in New Orleans and she’s truly happy as an antiques dealer; at the same time, she loved her grandmother and there are memories in Sweet Bay, Alabama. It’s easy to see why she would be drawn in by her grandmother’s last wish, her directive for Sara to not only renovate the house but live in the house during the work.

Mags and Sara had different and yet very similar lives and as Sara’s time in Sweet Bay goes by, we see Mags through her own eyes and narrative. While their respective tragedies weren’t at all alike, the one constant is the importance The Hideaway played in their pasts and Sara begins to learn so much about Mags that she had not known before.

Ms. Denton’s debut is a charming tale of family and hidden lives blended with the sometimes annoying but always loyal people who become extended family, often more important than blood relatives. In essence, this is a tale of reaching for what one’s destiny can be and how those closest to us become embedded in our souls and anyone looking for a comfortable, easy story would do well to pick up The Hideaway.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Books-A-Million

Audible // Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren K. Denton now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books. The Hideaway is her first novel.

Connect with Lauren

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Follow the tour here.

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Waiting On Wednesday (65)

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: Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

Frozen Charlotte
Alex Bell
Scholastic Press, November 2016
ISBN 978-0-545-94108-2
Hardcover

Everything began innocently enough. Sophie and her best friend Jay sitting in a cafe. He’d downloaded an ouija board app on his smartphone and was insistent they try it. Despite a sense of dread, she goes along reluctantly, but something seems to hijack the app, sending them really scary messages. Then the lights go out and all hell breaks loose. Someone in the cafe kitchen is badly burned and Sophie swears she saw a tall, ghostly figure atop one of the tables. Spooked by the experience, she pleads with Jay to take the towpath home when riding his rickety bike instead of going by way of the heavily traveled streets. The next day, she learns to her horror that he lost the brakes on his bike, slid into a canal and drowned.

Thus begins a series of scary and inexplicable events for Sophie. Her parents have a long anticipated anniversary trip to San Francisco, but are willing to cancel it because of what happened to Jay. Knowing that they’ll lose a bunch of money if this happens, stiffens her resolve to go stay with her strange relatives in an old girl’s school on the Isle of Skye they converted into a super menacing mansion.

Once there, things alternate between creepy and creepier. (Imagine highlights from “The Shining” if the cast were ripped from “The Munsters” minus any comedy and you’d be off to a good beginning.) Her uncle is an artist and essentially clueless about what’s happening, one of her cousins, Rebecca, died years ago under mysterious circumstances, but her ghost keeps reappearing (is she coming back to warn Sophie, or scare the heck out of her?) Then there’s her slightly older cousin Cameron, a brilliant pianist who suffered a terrible injury to one hand, severely hampering his dreams of becoming a world famous musician. Sophie can’t decide if he hates her or everyone in general. Next comes Piper, who is insanely beautiful and the same age as Sophie. At first, she seems like a breath of fresh air, but the longer Sophie’s around her, the more confused she is about who the real Piper is. Then there’s Lilias, the youngest girl who once tried to remove her own collarbone with a butcher knife. She’s hostile toward Sophie in the beginning, but the longer they’re around each other, the more they need to trust and rely on each other.

Add in that her aunt is locked up in a mental hospital, that there is an army of super creepy dolls remaining from when the school was in operation, coupled with a trash-talking parrot and generally gloomy weather and you have a grand recipe for a top notch YA horror story. Even if you start figuring out who was responsible for what nastiness before the end, it won’t matter because reading this makes for a grand and scary ride. Let’s hope the power doesn’t go out while you’re doing so.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, February 2017.