Monday, October 12, 2015

Knock on Wood by Linda O. Johnston - #review #giveaway

Rory Chasen, now the manager of the Lucky Dog Boutique in Destiny, California, is delighted when her closest friend Gemma Grayfield, a librarian, comes for a visit. But Gemma arrives early and seems upset. It turns out she has broken up with her boyfriend, Frank Shorester. Gemma is soon hired to manage the Broken Mirror Bookstore. Frank follows her to Destiny, where Gemma is also wooed by two local men. Rory may be a little jealous—until one of those men, Deputy Mayor Bevin Dermot, turns up dead. Bevin is known for knocking on wood for everything, but despite Destiny being all about superstitions that did not save his life.

Rory tries to help Gemma clear herself of being a murder suspect, even counting on her lucky black and white dog Pluckie to help. But is Gemma guilty of murder—or of just having a run of bad luck?

Scrapbook of the Dead by Mollie Cox Bryan - #review #giveaway

Halloween means spooky scrapbooks for the Cumberland Creek Scrapbook Crop, but what's been happening around town is truly frightening. First a dead woman is found in the freezer at Pamela's Pie Palace, and the next day a second woman is found murdered by the river. Reporter Annie Chamovitz learns the victims were sisters and is certain their deaths are linked. Most bizarre of all, both women were found clutching scrapbook pages.
As their Saturday night crop quickly becomes an opportunity to puzzle out the murders, the ladies begin to wonder if Pamela is hiding more than her secret recipes for delicious pies--or if the crimes are related to the startling discovery that there are gangs in Cumberland Creek. As All Hallows Eve approaches, the crafty croppers must cut and paste the clues to unmask a deadly killer.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Mrs. John Doe by Tom Savage - #Review

Nora Baron’s life is perfect. She lives on Long Island Sound, teaches acting at a local university, and has a loving family. Then one phone call changes everything. She’s informed that her husband, Jeff, has died in a car crash while on a business trip in England. Nora flies to London to identify the body, which the police have listed as a “John Doe.” When she leaves the morgue, a man tries to steal her purse containing Jeff’s personal effects. Clearly, all is not as it seems.

At her hotel, Nora receives a cryptic message that leaves her with more questions than answers. She follows the message’s instructions to France, where a fatal encounter transforms her into a fugitive. Wanted for murder, on the run in a shadowy landscape of lies, secrets, and sudden violence, Mrs. “John Doe” must play the role of a lifetime to stay one step ahead of a ruthless enemy with deadly plans for her—and for the world.



This is the 2nd book of Mr. Savage that I have been able to review, the first being A Penny for the Hangman.  If I tell you that book made me think if someone offers me an all-expense-paid first-class trip to St. Thomas, that I will refuse, tell you how creepy good the book was?

Mrs. John Doe is a book of this same caliber.  And Savage drops the reader right into the thick of things from Chapter 1.  Nora was on the widow's walk at her home when she receives a call that her husband has died.  Oh, the irony.  Gamers call little extras such as this 'Easter eggs'.  In "Mrs.", they are in-book 'swag' that adds the icing to the cake of the text itself.

After finding out that she is now a widow, Nora learns that her husband's wallet had cash and pictures of her and their daughter, but was devoid of identification.  Her husband was therefore classified as a "John Doe" by the police taking the report.  Curiouser and curiouser.

I kept hearing lines from tv spy shows while reading "Mrs.", notably "trust no one" and "take nothing at face value".  The action was thrilling and reading the story was like being the 2nd car in a high-speed chase, pursuing the next twist and trying not to go over too far on two wheels so that your vehicle skids and crashes.

I have to confess, after "Penny", I did not rush to add the rest of Mr. Savage's books to my TBR.  That actually shows how much the book spooked me, and should not be taken in a negative manner.  However, I am now heading over to GoodReads to add the rest of Savage's books.  Liking one book could have been a fluke.  Liking two books is a trend - and one on which I intend to follow-up.

If you like books that make your pulse pound, where the images conjured up by your mind while reading are better than the best 'action' movie, Mrs. John Doe should be on your shelf as well.



Tom Savage is the author of six suspense novels: Precipice, Valentine, The Inheritance, ScavengerA Penny for the Hangman, and Mrs. John Doe. He wrote two detective novels under the name T. J. Phillips, Dance of the Mongoose and Woman in the Dark. His short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and anthologies edited by Lawrence Block, Harlan Coben, and Michael Connelly. His short story, “The Method In Her Madness,” was nominated for the Barry Award. His bestselling novel, Valentine, was made into a Warner Bros. film.  In his younger days he was a professional actor, and he also wrote a Broadway show, Musical Chairs.
Tom was born in New York and raised in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. He attended Point Park College and Hofstra University, majoring in drama and minoring in English. After acting and writing plays, he worked for many years at Murder Ink®, the world’s first mystery bookstore. He’s a member of Actors Equity Association, ASCAP, the Authors Guild, Mystery Writers of America, the International Association of Crime Writers, and International Thriller Writers. He has served as a director on the national board of MWA, and he’s served several times on the Best Novel committees for MWA (Edgar® Awards) and IACW (Hammett Prize). He is a founding member of MWA’s Mentor Program, assessing and encouraging new mystery writers. He lives in New York City.


Click the banner to go to the tour site where you will find more reviews as well as several interviews with the author.

(Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher via Enchanted Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased review only.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron - #review #interview #giveaway

Check in for some Southern hospitality in Plantation Shudders, the Cajun Country series debut from Ellen Byron.

It’s the end of the summer and Prodigal Daughter Maggie Crozat has returned home to her family’s plantation-turned-bed-and-breakfast in Louisiana. The Crozats have an inn full of guests for the local food festival–elderly honeymooners, the Cajun Cuties, a mysterious stranger from Texas, a couple of hipster lovebirds, and a trio of Georgia frat boys. But when the elderly couple keels over dead within minutes of each other–one from very unnatural causes– Maggie and the others suddenly become suspects in a murder.

With the help of Bo Durant, the town’s handsome new detective, Maggie must investigate to clear her name while holding the family business together at the same time. And the deeper she digs, the more she wonders: are all of the guests really there for a vacation or do they have ulterior motives? Decades-old secrets and stunning revelations abound in Ellen Byron’s charming cozy debut, Plantation Shudders.



I like the element of the supernatural in Plantation Shudders.  And yes, that is the correct spelling, because the author refers to the shudders you get when a cold chill runs up your spine, and not the window decor when using the term.  You see, when you get the shudders, that means something bad is going to happen.  And in my book, a older couple who keel over after supper is definitely in 'minus' side of the day's events.

I'm feeling like it would be hard to have to turn the family home into a B&B.  Granted, many of the larger homes and estates have really too much room for one family, but you'd always have to be on your best behavior with guests coming and going at all hours.  But times are tough all over and it's not only the working class feeling the pinch.

The sheriff did not impress me much.  It's great that Ms. Byron writes unlikeable characters so well.  I get it that he is from a rival old family in the area, but if he draws out the investigation to force the Crozats into losing money (as they generously offered to either have their guests transferred to another accommodation or to let them stay on where they were for free), then it's time for johnny law to step down and let someone who can keep their business and personal lives separate.

Once the older couple, who were not whom they claimed to be, met their maker, the other guests' facades started falling faster than the leaves in autumn.  Most or all of them had something to hide.  Of course, this is not a bad thing in a murder mystery, because it leaves lots of suspects to sort through.  If everyone knew whodunit right from the start, it would make for some very short books!

The setting was wonderfully written by Ms. Byron.  I could feel the history and the danger of the old plantation and area seeping into my bones.  It's going to be fun watching Maggie and Bo 'dance' around each other in a kind of Cajun "West Side Story", as the Crozats and Durants are rival families.

All in all, Plantation Shudders is a wonderful debut novel!  Makes me want to go to Louisiana, check in at the Crozat's B&B (or something similar) in time to sit on the porch reading the follow-up novel and sip sweet tea!



Byron is a native New Yorker who loves the rain, lives in bone-dry Los Angeles, and spends lots of time writing about Louisiana. She attributes this obsession to her college years at New Orleans’ Tulane University. Her debut novel, Plantation Shudders: A Cajun Country Mystery, launches on August 11th.  Her TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, and many network pilots.  She’s written over 200 magazine articles, and her published plays include the award-winning, Graceland.  She is also the recipient of a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant. She’s the proud mom of a fifteen year-old daughter and two very spoiled rescue dogs.



Do you like one style of writing (fiction, playwrighting, television, magazines) more than the others?  If so, which one and why?
I actually don’t have a favorite. I like to go back and forth because if I do one style too much, I risk burning myself out. I’m really loving writing fiction right now. But I’ve also been doing a lot of guest blogging, and it’s really fun to come up with a short, entertaining piece. It provides a nice balance with the fiction.
So, your debut novel.  Excited?!?!?!
Sooooooooo excited!!! I am having the time of my life. One of the biggest thrills is hearing from people who’ve responded to the book. I feel like I’ve been welcomed into a wonderful new world of authors and readers.
Love the 'breed names' you've come up with for your family's pets.  Can you tell us a little more about them?
There’s this wonderful rescue in Beverly Hills called The Amanda Foundation. We had a rescue basset hound for years that we adopted from Basset Hound Rescue of Southern California, but when our daughter was seven, she asked for “a pet that moves.” (Anyone who’s ever parented a basset hound will be laughing right now!) We went to Amanda, met with three dogs, and Eliza fell in love with Wiley, a fifteen pound mutt who’s got lots of Corgi in him, as well as other breeds (hence our calling him a “corgi-jack-huahua”).Then two years ago, we went back Amanda to get Wiley a friend. Pogo ( a ten-pound Chihuahua and terrier mix of some kind – hence my calling him a “cherrier”) had been surrendered by a heartbroken family that was no longer allowed to keep him where they lived, and Amanda promised they’d find a good home for him. The minute we expressed interest, they were all over us! His name was Snoopy, but he jumps up and down like a Pogo Stick, so our daughter renamed him Pogo. And get this: a couple of weeks ago, I received a Facebook friend request from a teenage girl. I messaged her to find out how we know each other, because she didn’t look familiar. And she wrote back, “We were Pogo’s first family. I just wanted to see how he was doing.” Tears! I sent her pictures, of course.

Here are our boys. (And me in jammies holding the TV remote!)

What made you decide to have a go at writing books after all your other writing experiences?
I’ve always loved reading mysteries. A good friend started a writers group and since I was feeling the aforementioned burn-out from writing for TV, I thought I’d try my hand at a mystery. My first manuscript, You Can Never Be Too Thin or Too Dead, won a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant from the Malice Domestic Conference. While I was hunting for an agent and then waiting for that to sell, I wrote Plantation Shudders. Good thing, too, because You Can Never Be Too Thin or Too Dead is still looking for a home. ￿
Has "Graceland" ever been performed at its namesake?
No, not that I know of. But it did get the seal of approval from whatever executive board runs the place. They certainly should like it; it’s basically a mash note to Elvis. BTW, I wrote the play because I didn’t understand the devotion his fans showed him. It seemed, well, fanatical. But writing the play turned me into an Elvis fan, albeit a low-key one.
If money was no object, where would you live?
I’m originally from New York, and my fantasy has always been a Central Park West apartment with a giant terrace and view of Central Park. I’d also have a place in Louisiana, somewhere in Cajun Country, and a vacation house on Bantam Lake in Connecticut. My family had a cottage there for 36 years, but we had to sell it after my dad passed away. I still miss it terribly. 
If you could invite any writer from history to a meal and conversation, whom would you invite and what would you discuss?
Emily Bronte. I’m obsessed with Wuthering Heights, and the Bronte family. Number one on my bucket list is eventually visiting Haworth in England and the Bronte Parsonage. I’d pick her brain about her life and every detail that inspired the world and characters in the book. But having read many biographies of the family, I get the impression she was very reserved and not too communicative, so I’d really have to work at getting information out of her. 
Any idea how many instalments there will be to the Cajun Country Mystery series?
As many as my publisher will allow me to do! I just turned in the manuscript for book two, Body on the Bayou, and I’m super excited about it. My fingers are crossed that I soon get a deal for additional books because I’m really attached to my characters and to Pelican, Louisiana, the fictional village where they live.
Tell us what the future holds for Ellen Byron, writer?
Hopefully a lot more books in the Cajun Country series! I’m also attending conferences like Bouchercon, where I’ll appear on a panel and at the New Author Breakfast. And my television writing partner and I are working on an animated series, as well as a pilot for a cable station. 
If you went to talk to your daughter's school class about being a writer, what would you tell them?
I’d tell them that if you want to pursue a writing career, you must be passionate about it, because it can be a tough road. You hear “no” and “pass” a lot, and it can wear you down. You have to trust your own talent and absolutely adore doing it. I love to write. Love it, whether it’s a play, a TV show, a magazine article, a book, a blog – or a Question and Answer interview! ;-)

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(Disclosure:  I received a print copy of this book from the author and publishers in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.) 

#Review: The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

Mitch Albom creates his most unforgettable character—Frankie Presto, the greatest guitarist ever to walk the earth—in this magical novel about the power of talent to change our lives.

In Mitch Albom's epic new novel, the voice of Music narrates the tale of its most beloved disciple, Frankie Presto, a Spanish war orphan raised by a blind music teacher. At nine years old, Frankie is sent to America in the bottom of a boat. His only possession is an old guitar and six magical strings.

But Frankie's talent is touched by the gods, and it weaves him through the musical landscape of the twentieth century, from classical to jazz to rock and roll. Along the way, Frankie influences many artists: he translates for Django Reinhardt, advises Little Richard, backs up Elvis Presley, and counsels Hank Williams.

Frankie elevates to a rock star himself, yet his gift becomes his burden, as he realizes that he can actually affect people's futures: his guitar strings turn blue whenever a life is altered. Overwhelmed by life, loss, and this power, he disappears for years, only to reemerge in a spectacular and mysterious farewell.

With its Forrest Gump–like journey through the music world, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto is a classic in the making. A lifelong musician himself, Mitch Albom delivers an unforgettable story. "Everyone joins a band in this life," he observes, be it through music, family, friends, or lovers. And those connections change the world.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Prince of Prigs by Anthony Anglorus - #review

The union of England and Scotland under one crown is not even a half century old, and the Parliamentarians already threaten the very fabric of the nation. These are the adventures of highwayman Capt. James Hind who, in Robin Hood fashion, steals from the Roundheads to help fund the royalist cause. When Cromwell comes to power, James, the Prince of Prigs, must be careful whom among his treacherous “friends” he trusts.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

#Review: Burdin's End by Alexander Nader

Ty Burdin, the retired demon hunter who just can’t stay retired.

In the final installment of the Beasts of Burdin trilogy Ty has found himself roped into working for the Agency, a top secret organization with the sole purpose of eliminating all demon activity, yet again. Demon hunting is a full time job, but luckily Ty has managed to work his way down to a ‘consulting’ position in the Agency after a few disagreements and a couple dead superiors.

Ty’s part-time position becomes far more hands on as the demon activity in his region cranks up to eleven. Demons are crawling out of peoples’ minds and into the real world at an alarming rate and it’s up to Ty, once again, to step in and save the day. First step: get over last night’s hangover.