July 26, 2016

Scared Witchless by Amy Boyles - Spotlight


Published: June 28, 2016
Genre: Cozy Mystery

Synopsis:
A witch. A murder. A wedding dress?

Dylan Apel is having one heck of a summer. She knows her hand-made clothing is special, but magical? Discovering that she's a witch is bad enough, but when Dylan realizes there are folks who’ll kill to possess her witchy powers— that’s enough to make a girl want to hide out in the back of her boutique. Only problem is, Queen Witch is in town, itchin’ to make sure Dylan learns to cast spells, and this witch won’t take no for an answer.

Dylan must learn fast—someone just killed her best client with a poisoned gown meant for Dylan. Was it the tall, mysterious hottie in black, who's suddenly everywhere she goes? After all, the first thing Roman Bane says is he doesn't like witches. Is he here to save her, or kill her?

Dylan is barely getting a handle on her new powers when she finds herself surrounded by witches bossing her this way and that, local police nosing about, and wary clients—death by clothing is not good for business. And the solstice is coming … a time when witch powers are at their peak. Can Dylan survive the chaos long enough to figure out her new life?

Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE
"If that ain't the other side of stupid, I don't know what is."

Reagan Eckhart, all platinum-blonde ninety-eight pounds of her, shoved a newspaper in my face. I winced, barely avoiding a massive paper cut to the nose.

"Those idiots put you in Arts and Leisure. You should have been on the front page of the Birmingham News." She tapped the newspaper with a single red fingernail. "With as much business as you do, Dylan Apel, you should have been the main story of the day."

"Don't you think technically they should have put me in the business section?" I said.

Reagan fluffed the foot of hair teased up at her crown. At least it looked like a foot. Okay, it wasn't a foot—only six inches. But those were a tall six inches. Big enough to practically be their own person. "Whatever," she mumbled.

The debutante was in rare form today. Reagan was dressed to the nines in a black halter top and pants that resembled Spandex. Personally, I was waiting for her to break out into the chorus of “You're the One That I Want,” √† la Olivia Newton-John. Harry Shaw, her fianc√©—a smallish, bald financial advisor—definitely wouldn't join her if she did. His idea of playing John Travolta probably resembled hot-and-heavy talk about how gross grease and lightning were and why would you want to put the two together?

I grabbed the paper and scrutinized the picture of me and my sisters, Seraphina and Reid. Bright, beaming smiles on our faces, we stood in front of our side-by-side stores—Perfect Fit and Sinless Confections. Seraphina, tall and slender, her hair shimmering like glass in the sunlight, looked absolutely perfect. Even Reid, my eighteen-year-old baby sis, looked cherubic and innocent, her doe eyes and cheeky smile radiating youthful exuberance.

Then there was me. I sighed. It had taken two hours to smooth my hair, and it had still frizzed on the edges. I wasn't as tall or slender as Seraphina. But what I lacked in athletic build, I made up for in curves. Good for me. I might not look statuesque and perfect, but I could put on a slutty dress and have enough T and A to get noticed.

Was that a zit on my cheek?

"When I realized you had this store, Dylan," Reagan said, "and I saw how beautiful the dresses were, I told Harry—I said, 'Harry, that's who's going to design my wedding dress.' Didn't I, hon?"

Harry, nose-deep in the business section, remained silent.

Reagan kicked him.

"Ow!" Harry rubbed his ankle. "What'd you do that for?"

"Didn't I, Harry? Didn't I say that?"

Harry shrank a little, his bald pate looking even balder under the fluorescents. "Yes, of course you did, dear."

Poor guy. He probably wouldn't last a year in the marriage. He'd be whipped, beaten down and likely castrated after two months.

Did I say that out loud?

"Anyway," Reagan continued, flitting about the room. "I told Harry, Dylan Apel and I were best friends in high school—"

"Mortal enemies," I corrected.

"—and of course she's going to be the one to design my dress." Girlfriend didn't miss one beat. I don't think Reagan listened to what people said. Did she even hear them when they talked?

From the corner my assistant, Carrie Dogwood, snickered. I shot her a look of warning. She turned a deep shade of red and pretended to straighten a rack of sequined gowns.

"Reagan, do you want to see your dress again?" I asked.

"Of course," she squealed. "I can't get enough of it."

Carrie crossed to me. She leaned over, kept her voice low. "Wonder what she'll complain about this time."

I turned away from Reagan. "Hopefully nothing," I whispered. "Can you grab the dress?"

"Sure thing."

An unfinished blue gown caught my attention. The color of a robin's egg, the dress would be the envy of the Silver Springs solstice banquet, what with its deep vee neckline and overlay of chiffon. I needed to finish it before the dance, which was barely two weeks away.

I sighed. I'd been working a lot lately, thanks to Reagan's never-ending changes to her gown. There was less than a week until the wedding, and after that I'd have plenty of time to work on my own dress. That is, if I survived Reagan for a few more days.

I stared vacantly at the gown until a bodiless hand thrust the newspaper into my face once more. Reagan popped up in front of me and wiggled the now crumpled article. "But this reporter nails it. She absolutely gets it right. I could have gone anywhere for my dress, but there's just something about your gowns and your sister's food. It's like I'm transported to another place. I don't know how to describe it."

I had heard the same mantra over and over from clients. There's something about your clothes that I can't put my finger on. It's almost like they're magical.

Yeah. Right. Not that I didn't appreciate the compliment. Believe me, I did. So did Sera. If it weren't for the folks in our lakeside community of Silver Springs, Alabama, we'd be beggars. Hoboes maybe. Vagabonds most likely. And not the good kind. Not the sexy kind you see on the covers of romance novels.

Wait. There weren't hoboes on those. Well, anyway, we'd be dirty, covered in rags that smelled of oil and sweat, with grit under our fingernails that not even the best manicure technician could lift.

"Here's the dress," Carrie said.

Reagan's smile vanished. "Oh."

My dreams, my hopes, my wishes for a beautiful future crashed and exploded like a car careening off a cliff in a 1970s B movie. What could possibly be wrong this time—the hundredth time? I swear, every occasion this girl saw her dress, she found something to criticize. It was a wonder I hadn't strangled her before now.

I smoothed the lines of frustration that were forming on my forehead. "What's the problem?"

Reagan wrinkled her nose. "It's just…well…that's a lot of sequins."

I took a deep, cleansing breath and thought happy thoughts. "Last week you wanted more sequins. You said it didn't have enough bling."

Carrie bit back a giggle.

I flashed her a seething look. I mean, seriously. I knew it was funny, but it was only good service not to laugh at the customer while she's standing right in front of you. At least wait until the door hits her backside as she's leaving.

"Well," Reagan said, "last week there weren't any sequins. What were there? Like five on the whole thing?"

I steepled my fingers beneath my chin. "There were two hundred."

"Oh. How many are there now?"

"Five hundred."

"It's too many. Listen, Dylan, just because we were best friends in high school—"

"Mortal enemies," I said.

"—doesn't mean you can take advantage of me. If this dress isn't to perfection by Saturday, then I'm getting it for free. Right?"

Whoa, Nelly. "I'm sorry?"

Reagan batted her fake eyelashes. "That's just plain old good business. The customer is always right. I mean, we go way back. Too far back to let a little disagreement over some sequins ruin what we had."

I poked the air with my index finger. "Once again, we were mortal enemies. Reagan, you have brain damage when it comes to what high school was like."

A tittering laugh escaped her throat. It sounded like a thousand butterflies taking flight. That was right before I lifted my imaginary rocket launcher, aimed high and fired, sending the beauties crashing to the ground in a blazing explosion.

"You're so melodramatic, Dylan. We had a little disagreement about prom; that was all."

I crossed my arms. "Reagan, let me remind you of exactly what happened in high school."

"Why don't you do that, since you're so convinced we had nothing to do with each other." Reagan pulled one of her eyelashes. Ouch. Didn't that hurt?

I shook my head and said, "You had Colten Blacklock ask me to prom for the sole purpose of standing me up the night of." I pointed to her and then to me. "You and I—we were never friends, and I'm not giving you this dress for free. We've done a dozen fittings, and you've found something wrong with each and every one. You can either take it or leave it."

Reagan's mouth fell. She swung to Harry. "Are you going to let her talk to me like that?"

Harry squashed the grin on his face and cleared his throat. "Ahem. Well. You have tried the dress on a lot, and Miss Apel has been more than accommodating."

Reagan stomped her foot. "You," she said, wagging a finger at him. "You wait until we get home."

Oh no. I didn't want Harry to be in the dog house because of me. I reached out and rubbed Reagan's arm, trying to soothe the savage bridezilla. "Reagan, I'll lose some of the sequins. Stop by tomorrow and see what you think."

She flashed a tight, bitter smile. "What you have better be good, or I'm taking my business elsewhere. And that means your sister won't be doing the catering, either." She squared her shoulders, swiveled on her heel and stormed out of the shop. Harry gave me an apologetic smile and followed. The little bell above the door tinkled as they left.

"Do you think she'll back out?" Carrie asked.

I shook my head. "Of course not. Not unless she wants a dress off the rack and a cake from Walmart."

Carrie laughed. "She's something else, isn't she?"

"She's certainly something.” I rubbed my neck. Tension latched to the cords of muscle. I'd have a headache pretty soon if I didn't take an ibuprofen. Extending my palm, I gestured for Carrie to hand me the wedding gown. "I guess I'll alter her dress."

Carrie stuffed the layers of silk in my hands and nodded to the blue cross-necked dress. "But when are you going to finish that one?"

I peeked out from behind the mass. "I don't know. We have, what? Two weeks until the summer solstice? I'll work on it soon."

The bell above the door tinkled. Seraphina crashed in, a whirlwind of flour following her. Her blue eyes sparkled with delight. How I envied those eyes. Mine were poo brown. Some said chocolate, but I knew better. Those folks were just being Southern polite.

"Oh my God! Did y'all see the article?" She waved the paper like a flag of surrender.

"I did!"

"It's incredible. The reporter went so far as to say our work is, and I quote…" She scanned the article. "Where is it? Where did that passage go? Oh, here it is." She jabbed it. "She said our work is 'inspired by the gods themselves.' Ha! You couldn't pay for better advertising."

"You probably could," I said.

Carrie flipped the ends of her chestnut hair. "Listen, y'all, I just got this new gel manicure machine in the mail. Do you mind if I go freshen up these bad boys?" She wiggled her perfect coral nails. To my eyes, they needed no refreshing. But hey, every girl has some sort of vice. Carrie's happened to be that she was ADD about her nails. In the three years she'd worked for me, I'd never seen one chip. Ever. Mine, on the other hand, looked like Godzilla had tried to paint them—there were broken wedges of color that Carrie would have deemed unforgivable.

"Go ahead. We'll be here," I said. She picked up a shipping box and exited to the back.

I hung Reagan's wedding dress on a rack and brushed my hands of any rogue sequins that hadn't been sewn on properly, which was actually impossible since I'd done the work myself. But my grandmother had always taught me to be humble, so that was my attempt.

Sera chewed her bottom lip. "The reporter says, 'Dylan Apel's dresses will transport you to another time and place. A claim I can attest to personally, for I experienced this peculiar phenomenon first-hand when I tried on one of her gowns. When I saw my reflection in the mirror, for a split second I was taken back to the cotillion ball where I met my husband thirty years ago. If that wasn’t enough to put a spring in my step, one bite of Seraphina's baked treats and I was back in my grandmother’s kitchen as she created confections on the stove. Truly a magical experience.'" Sera paused, looked up at me. "Seriously. That's some good stuff."

"Yeah, it’s good,” I said. But the reporter’s description about trying on my clothes bothered me. I shrugged off the uncomfortable feeling and smiled. "Though I have been accused on occasion of drugging my clothes."

Sera frowned. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

The bell tinkled. I stepped forward, my most welcoming smile on my face.

My sister glanced at me. "You look like a piranha. Tone it down."

I settled into a half smile. "Good morning! Welcome to Perfect Fit."

A towering redhead sauntered into the store. Bangles covered both her arms, clinking pleasantly as she walked. Emerald-green eyes fixed on me and Sera. I squirmed. Couldn't help it. At five-five I wasn't short. Not by any means. But this was a tall woman. Five-ten easy. And all that hair. A cloud of silky crimson and honey curls cascaded down her back. I don't even think she had any product in it. It was a totally natural head of hair.

I hated her.

Kidding. But envy did surface.

She smiled brightly. My envy turned into instant like. "Mornin'. I wanted to try on some clothes," she said in a throaty voice, the kind that drove men mad. I'd never seen her before, and Silver Springs was a minuscule town. From the look of interest on Sera's face, I guess she hadn't seen this woman before, either.

I stepped forward. "Absolutely. What are you looking for?"

"Just some regular day-wear stuff."

My time had arrived. I had a knack, a sixth sense really, about clothes and people. In one try I could create an entire body-fitting wardrobe and not even know the size of the person. What can I say? It came naturally to me.

"Are you looking for sportswear or business?"

"Both."

Cha-ching! "Let me pull a few items and see what you think."

"I'm gonna head back," Sera said. "I'm sure there's something I need to make."

I waved. "Bye."

She waved back and left, leaving me to focus on my client. Five minutes later I had two armfuls of pants, jackets, and blouses. "Let me get you in a dressing room. After you're done, come out and see what you think in the three-way mirror."

None of my dressing rooms had mirrors. People thought it weird, but I wanted to be around when my clients saw themselves in my clothing for the first time.

The woman disappeared behind the door, a roomful of clothes at the ready. Two minutes later she reappeared in a pair of jeans and a loose blouse.

"Take a look."

She stepped forward. The air contracted as if the very atmosphere had been sucked away. The mirror shimmered, and the woman's image bowed and straightened. It happened fast, so fast no one ever noticed. No one except for me.

So, this is where I tell you what that's all about. I would if I could. The easiest explanation is that my clothes make people feel great. From what Sera's told me, putting on one of my garments reminds you of an amazing time in your life. For instance—you're a fifty-year-old woman buying a dress for your daughter's wedding. You try something on and poof, you're transported back to the wondrous feeling you experienced at senior prom. Of course, that would be you, not me. My prom stank thanks to Reagan Eckhart.

At least, that’s what I’d always thought. It’s also why the reporter’s story bothered me. She saw her younger self in that mirror. That had never happened before—at least not that I knew of. My clothes blanketed clients in a wondrous feeling. They didn't make anyone see visions.

Sera's baked goods do something similar. Every time I eat something she's made, I feel amazing, like I could take on the world. One bite of a buttery croissant and I'm totally superwoman. Minus the red cape. And the tights. Now that I think about it, I wouldn't be caught dead in that outfit.

But why are we like that? We're gifted; that's what our grandmother always called it. We have a gift.

"What do you think?" I asked.

She stared at her image. After a long moment her lips curlicued into a smile. She licked the bottom one, her eyes shining.

"Your clothes are breathtaking."

Thirty minutes and three hundred dollars later, I placed the last package in the redhead's hands.

"How'd you hear about us?" I asked.

"I saw the article in the paper."

I clicked my tongue. "Wow. News travels fast." Sweet. Today might be a crazy, busy day.

She smiled, her eyes glittering. "You don't even know the half of it."

"Oh?"

She pinched her brows together, giving her a dark, ominous expression. "In one week I guarantee you won't recognize your life."

An awkward laugh escaped my lips. "Oh. Ha-ha. I hope it's all good."

She shook her head. "That little article that came out about you? The one that was supposed to help your business? Well, you just did the opposite. You stirred up a bed of fire ants." She leaned forward and gave me a stern look. "And in case you need remindin', the sting from a fire ant lasts a long time. Take this as your warnin'."

I was so confused. "What do you mean, a warning?"

"Watch your back."

With that she left, her cloud of hair billowing behind her. I stood stone still. Numb shock tingled over my body, filtering down into my fingers and toes.

What the heck just happened?

About the author:

After living in Chicago, Louisville and New York, Amy Boyles finally settled in North Alabama with her husband.

Along with writing, she has a passion for cooking ridiculously fattening food and complaining about weight gain. She loves to connect with readers.

Contact Links
Website

Purchase Link
Amazon


The Quirky Quiz Show Caper by Sally Carpenter - Spotlight, Character Interview and Giveaway


Published: March 26, 2016
Number of pages: 242
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol Mystery #4

Synopsis:
38-year-old formal teen idol Sandy Fairfax is a guest panelist on a TV game show–and the first category is murder! When his brother, a college professor is framed for the murder of one of his student, Sandy investigates, in between fighting with his ex, visiting his kids, wooing his new girlfriend, and presenting a concert at a black tie gala to save his father’s orchestra. Sandy’s ready to tear out his long blond hair as the game points and suspects pile up.

About the author:
Sally Carpenter is native Hoosier now living in Moorpark, Calif.

She has a master’s degree in theater from Indiana State University. While in school her plays “Star Collector” and “Common Ground” were finalists in the American College Theater Festival One-Act Playwrighting Competition. “Common Ground” also earned a college creative writing award and “Star Collector” was produced in New York City.

Carpenter also has a master’s degree in theology and a black belt in tae kwon do.

She’s worked as an actress, college writing instructor, theater critic, jail chaplain, and tour guide/page for Paramount Pictures. She’s now employed at a community newspaper.

The Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series is comprised of: “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper” (2012 Eureka! Award finalist for best first mystery novel), “The Sinister Sitcom Caper,” “The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper” and “The Quirky Quiz Show Caper.”

She has short stories in two anthologies: “Dark Nights at the Deluxe Drive-in” in “Last Exit to Murder” and “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet” in “Plan B: Omnibus.”

Carpenter penned chapter three of the Cozy Cat Press group mystery “Chasing the Codex.”

To atone for her sins of killing fictional people, she also writes the monthly Roots of Faith column for the Acorn Newspapers.

She blogs at http://sandyfairfaxauthor.com and ladiesofmystery.com.

She’s a member of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles.

Find her on Facebook too! https://www.facebook.com/sally.carpenter.54


Purchase Links

Character Interview
What was it like being a guest panelist on a game show?
TV is old hat for me. I was on “Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth” for four years and I’ve done guest spots on other shows. And I’m no stranger to game shows; I appeared on “Hollywood Squares” for a week in the 1970s. I’m an entertainer by trade and nature and I love performing. I’m very comfortable in front of a camera. But I have to admit my stint on the game show “Raise the Stakes” was nerve wracking. First all, the show goes out live with no retakes. I’m used to working off a script or set list. Thinking off the top of my head is hard work. Also, “RTS: is rigged. If the producer doesn’t like a particular contestant, he’ll manipulate the game so he loses. My partner on the show was one of my biggest fans, so I wanted her to do well. But the producer asked me to take a dive to bump her off the show. That galled me. And the worst part of “RTS”? The chairs. The celebrity panelists sat in these ghastly hydraulic chairs that went up or down depending if we were winning or losing. I’ve ridden a ton of roller coasters but that chair was more frightening than anything else I’ve been on.

Did you feel you acting as a detective on a TV show helped you to solve this mystery?
“Buddy Brave” is fiction and here we’re talking about real life crimes. There’s a difference. I suppose my alter ego has helped me in a way. Buddy’s shown me how to be more observant, to see the details that most people miss. I’ve learned how to take all the scattered pieces and clues and to put them together to solve the puzzle. Most of all Buddy’s helped me survive the various attempts the killers have made on my life. It seems that the deathtraps I’ve found myself in were similar to something from one of my TV episodes. These murderers must have been watching my show.

Do you have any regrets in trying to solve the murder on your own?
I would have liked a little more help from my brother in my last case, especially since he was the one being framed for murder. In my other cases, I’ve managed to find a friend or two to assist. No, I don’t regret it at all. I’m proud to help put criminals behind bars. It gives me a good feeling of being needed. However, I never set out to be an amateur sleuth; that job description was forced upon me. Either the police are eyeing the wrong suspect (like me, in my first case), or the cops were simply not doing their job. My only regret is that the killers always try to do me in as well and I’ve had some pretty narrow escapes. In my last case I ruined a perfectly good tuxedo but to say more would be a spoiler.

What was it like playing a detective on TV?
Loads of fun. I was 18 years old when we started shooting “Buddy Brave.” At that age I was gung ho and ready to try anything. I had loads of youthful energy to burn off. I insisted on doing my own stunts, so I got a real workout and learned all about stage fighting. I got to fly down zip lines, climb walls, hang from rooftops, and jump onto moving cars. Great stuff. Of course I loved the fame and adulation (more on that later). Buddy was an undercover spy who went to exotic locations, so each week I got to play around in the fantastic sets or travel to neat places to shoot. I was living every kid’s fantasy. Buddy disguised himself a lot, so the makeup people let me experiment with the paints and prosthetics. I had a terrific supporting cast, older actors who helped me learn the ropes of filming. Oh yes, each episode had a pretty young girl guest star for me to rescue. At the time my hormones were raging out of control and let’s just say when it came to the girl guest star, we had as much fun in my dressing room as we did on the set.

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to get into acting?
Go into acting only because you want to be an actor, not a celebrity. If your goal is stardom, you’ll either be very discouraged if you never get on the A-list, or if you do make it, you’ll find noteriety is not all it’s cracked up to be. I became famous at a young age when I was not mentally ready to handle it. I was a millionaire by age 19 and I spent money like it was it was never going to stop pouring in, which eventually it did. My family didn’t know what to do with me, and I didn’t want their advice anyway. If you want an acting career, go slow and steady and keep your feet grounded so that if your big break comes, you don’t fall apart. Surround yourself with good, honest people for support; avoid the leeches.

Truth is, I never set out to be an actor; I was a musician. At the time I sang and played guitar in a rock band. I tumbled into acting by default; every teen idol had his own TV show in the 1970s. I hadn’t even performed in a high school play. So I encourage young actors to learn the craft so they don’t watch their shows year later and cringe at a bad line reading.

Who is your favorite celebrity detective?
Charlie’s Angels. They sure were cute (laughs). Seriously, my favorite TV detective is Jim Rockford. Great stories, plenty of action, a down to earth guy with a sharp sense of humor.

Do you have a favorite mystery series you like to read?

I hate to admit it, but I’m not a reader. Maybe that’s because during my heyday I was just too busy to sit down with a book. And in my drinking years that followed, I couldn’t keep my eyes focused on the page. When I relax I swim in my pool or listen to music or play my guitar or go to a movie or eat out. But I’m trying to read more. I like the Sherlock Holmes short stories; perfect length for my short attention span. I started some Agatha Christie novels but ended up watching the movies instead. I’m reading some cold war thrillers and, of course, you can’t beat James Bond. That’s a classic.

Giveaway:


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July 24, 2016

The 8 Minute Writing Habit by Monica Leonell - Review


Published: September 8, 2015
Number of pages: 78
Genre: Reference

Synopsis:
Ready to establish a consistent writing habit, once and for all?

Monica Leonelle digs into the best literature on forming habits and shares the top strategies professional authors are using to make sure they write each and every day. Each tip is easy to implement and will get you writing more in the "in-betweens"—the inactive moments of your life where you are commuting, waiting in line, or otherwise physically stuck with your brain unoccupied!

If you've struggled to find time to write due to a day job, family, or an active, busy lifestyle, this book will help you clear your blocks around writing for good and get you writing more often, just a few words at a time.

For writers who still haven't found their rhythm and don't have time for long experiments, tracking spreadsheets, or full pomodoros—establish a writing habit that actually fits into your life!

BONUS: This book includes the full 8x8 Challenge: 8 days to implement the very best shortcuts to writing more, 8 minutes at a time! Get access to the live version and do the challenge with Monica herself.

What did I think of this book
It is always hard for me to write a review when I did not care for a book I read. I feel that I still need to give my honest opinion. The idea of writing for eight minutes a day is a good idea and a great way to get into the habit of writing. But this book to me almost a bunch of repetation. At the end of each of the eight days of writing challange the last paragraph is exactly the same. I am glad that I did not have to pay for this book and that it was free book. I truly hoped this book has helped others as I really wanted to get some ideas from it but unfortunately did not. 

About the author:
Monica Leonelle started reading young adult books when she was seven and never managed to grow out of them. Now, she writes them from a lovely Chicago apartment she shares with an adorable little Westie named Mia and the formidable Han Solo, a scruffy looking nerf herder (who is not stuck up or half-witted in the slightest).

There are plenty of other things Monica hasn't grown out of, like ABCFamily, Forever 21, and dressing up on Halloween. She loves to hear from readers, so email her at monicaleonelle@gmail.com to talk about her books, or to just say hi.

Her books include the Waters Dark and Deep series and the Socialpunk Trilogy. In 2013, she also plans to release the Stars and Shadows series and the American Families series.

Murder at Westminster Abbey by Amanda Carmack - Review

I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

Published: April 1, 2014
Number of pages: 286
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: An Elizabethan Mystery #2


Synopsis
1559. Elizabeth is about to be crowned queen of England and wants her personal musician Kate Haywood to prepare music for the festivities. New to London, Kate must learn the ways of city life…and once again school herself as a sleuth.

Life at the center of the new royal court is abuzz with ambition and gossip—very different from the quiet countryside, where Kate served Elizabeth during her exile. Making her way among the courtiers who vie for the new queen’s favor, Kate befriends Lady Mary Everley. Mary is very close to Elizabeth. With their red hair and pale skin, they even resemble each other—which makes Mary’s murder all the more chilling.

The celebrations go on despite the pall cast over them. But when another redhead is murdered, Kate uncovers a deadly web of motives lurking just beneath the polite court banter, and follows the trail of a killer whose grievance can only be answered with royal blood.

What did I think of this book
This was a great addition to this series. The more I read of this author the more I like her books. In this book we find Kate becoming friends with Lady Mary Everley but then she ends up murdered. This was not the first red-haired lady murder which has everyone wondering what is going on. So at the Queen's request she again starts to look to see if she can find some secrets to help solve the mystery of the murders. I was happy that we got to see Anthony and Rob again. As the stories go along you can see their relationships devlop. After the murder is solved we find out a big more about Kate's mother. I really liked that part of the book and thought was a great addition. Back to the murder - again the author had me guessing up until the end. For me I did not see any of the clues until the author wanted to start to reveal who it was. I also like how she uses real places as the settings of these books. I will be moving on to number three shortly. 

About the author:
Amanda McCabe wrote her first romance at the age of sixteen--a vast historical epic starring all her friends as the characters, written secretly during algebra class (and her parents wondered why math was not her strongest subject...)

She's never since used algebra, but her books (set in a variety of time periods--Regency, Victorian, Tudor, Renaissance, and 1920s) have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times BOOKReviews Reviewers' Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion. She lives in Oklahoma with a menagerie of two cats, a Pug, and a very bossy miniature Poodle, along with far too many books.

When not writing or reading, she loves yoga, collecting cheesy travel souvenirs, and watching the Food Network--even though she doesn't cook. She also writes as Laurel McKee and historical Elizabethan mysteries as Amanda Carmack....

Please visit her at http://ammandamccabe.com

Series:

#1 Murder at Hatfield House
#2 Murder at Westminster Abbey
#3 Murder in the Queen's Gardens
#3.5 Murder at the Queen's Masquerede
#4 Murder at Whitehall
#5 Murder at Fountainbleau

July 22, 2016

Planted by C.T. Collier - Spotlight and Giveaway


Published:  July 22, 2016
Number of pages: 309
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: The Penningtons Investigate #1

Synopsis:
Planted is book one of the new mystery series, The Penningtons Investigate, from award-winning author C. T. Collier. The Penningtons, Lyssa and Kyle, are both PhD’s, and when their clever minds start asking questions, clever killers can’t hide. It’s Monday of spring break when Professor Lyssa Pennington’s backyard garden project unearths a loaded revolver. With no record of violence at their address and no related cold case, the Tompkins Falls police have no interest. But the Penningtons and a friend with the State Police believe there a body somewhere. Whose? Where? And who pulled the trigger? The Penningtons’ canvass of their quiet neighborhood turns up disturbing secrets about the family who lived in their house for decades and another ill-fated family a few doors away. No one seems to know how to contact the only sons of either family. The few facts they have about them don't add up and, since the gun was buried about the time both young men disappeared from Tompkins Falls, the Penningtons feel compelled to find them and make sure all is well. Lyssa follows the money story and finds twenty million dollars, a neighbor who’s not what he seems, and a long-buried rivalry. Kyle goes after homicide data in six states and finds a body. Their next surprise is a murderer who will go to any length to conceal the crime.

About The Author
C. T. Collier grew up in Seneca Falls, NY, left the area for college and jobs, and always wanted to return to the Finger Lakes. Today she lives in a beautiful small city on one of the prettiest of the Finger Lakes, not unlike fictional Tompkins Falls on lovely Chestnut Lake. Most days you’ll find her writing in her tiny office looking out on a woods populated with fox, deer, wild turkeys, and songbirds. In her career as a tech-savvy college professor she has been endlessly fascinated with campus intrigue. Entirely fictional, Tompkins College is no college and every college.

Author Links: Website: https://drkatecollier.wordpress.com Facebook: kate.collier.315 Twitter: @TompkinsFalls Purchase Link Amazon

Giveaway:


JULY 22, 2016
Sleuth Cafe – Review

Fatal Justice by Marie Force - Spotlight, Excerpt and Giveaway


Published: Jume 28, 2016
Number of pages: 400
Genre: Romance
Series: Fatal Series #2

Synopsis:
She looked into the dead face of the man she’d dined with the night before

Standing over the body of a Supreme Court nominee, Lieutenant Sam Holland is hip-deep in another high-profile murder case. The fact that she was one of the last people to see Julian Sinclair alive just complicates things even more. On the plus side, her relationship with Senator Nick Cappuano is heating up—but it’s also attracting a lot of unwanted media attention and blinding flashbulbs.

The pressure is on for Sam to find Sinclair’s killer, but a new lead in her father’s unsolved shooting puts her in unexpected danger. When long-buried secrets threaten to derail her relationship with Nick, Sam realizes that while justice can be blind, mixing romance with politics has the potential to be fatal….

Purchase Links
Barnes & Noble * Amazon * IndieBound

About the author:
Marie Force is the New York Times bestselling author of 50 contemporary romances, including the Gansett Island Series, which has sold more than 2.3 million books, and the Fatal Series from Harlequin Books, which has sold more than 1.2 million books. In addition, she is the author of the Green Mountain Series as well as the erotic romance Quantum Series, written under the slightly modified name of M.S. Force. All together, her books have sold more than 5 million copies worldwide!

Her goals in life are simple—to finish raising two happy, healthy, productive young adults, to keep writing books for as long as she possibly can and to never be on a flight that makes the news.

Join Marie’s mailing list on her website at marieforce.com for news about new books and upcoming appearances in your area. Follow her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/MarieForceAuthor, on Twitter @marieforce and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/marieforceauthor/. Contact Marie at marie@marieforce.com.

Connect with Marie
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Excerpt:
“Do I have to call you Senator now?” she asked with a glint in her eye.

“Only in bed.”

Her cheeks flamed with color. “Why do you have to say that stuff?”

“Because it flusters you.”

“It does not.”

“Liar.”

She poked his ribs, making him laugh.

A throat was cleared behind them. They turned to find Nick’s communications director, Trevor Donnelly, waiting for him. Nick had retained all of John O’Connor’s staff, including the perpetually frazzled, mop-topped Donnelly.

“Um, excuse me, Senator, but the media is waiting to have a word with you, and the president and first lady were looking for you in the office. They have to get going.”

“I’ll be right there.”

“Should I, ah, wait?” Trevor asked.

“No, go on ahead.”

With an awkward nod, Trevor left them.

“It has to be weird to them,” Nick said, watching him go. “Two weeks ago, I was a staffer too. Now they have to call me Senator.”

“There’ll be some adjustments, but you’ll make it work.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence. I hope you’re right.”

“You’d better go. The president’s waiting for you.”

“Before I do,” he said, reaching for her hands and bringing them to his lips, “I have to do something about that anticipating-disaster look on your face.” When he had her full attention, he said, “I love you, Samantha, and you’re the most important thing in my life. More important than my job, my new title and all the perks that’ll come with it.”

“That’s sweet of you to say.” She finally cracked a grin as they walked toward the elevator.

Giveaway:




Blog Tour Stops:
Monday, June 27th: Bewitched Bookworms – Fatal Affair
Tuesday, July 5th: A Splendid Messy Life – Fatal Affair
Wednesday, July 6th: Book Binge – excerpt
Thursday, July 7th: Book Reviews and More – excerpt
Monday, July 11th: Reading Reality – Fatal Affair
Wednesday, July 13th: Mignon Mykel Reviews – Fatal Affair
Thursday, July 14th: Stranded in Chaos – Fatal Affair
Tuesday, July 19th: A Bookaholic Swede – excerpt
Wednesday, July 20th: Dog-Eared Daydreams – Fatal Affair
Tuesday, July 21st: The Romance Dish – excerpt
Friday, July 22nd: A Holland Reads – excerpt
Monday, July 25th: Romancing the Book – review and excerpt
Monday, July 25th: Becky on Books – Fatal Flaw
Tuesday, July 26th: The Sassy Bookster – Fatal Identity
Wednesday, July 27th: From the TBR Pile – excerpt
Thursday, July 28th: Books and Bindings – the entire Fatal series
Monday, August 1st: Books a la Mode – excerpt
Tuesday, August 2nd: Open Book Society – Fatal Affair, Fatal Justice, Fatal Consequences
Wednesday, August 3rd: Dog-Eared Daydreams – Fatal Justice
Thursday, August 4th: Buried Under Romance – Fatal Affair
Friday, August 5th: Dog-Eared Daydreams – Fatal Consequences



July 20, 2016

Something's Knot Kosher by Mary Marks - Spotlight and Giveaway


Published: June 29, 2016
Number of pages: 288
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Quilting Mystery #4

Synopsis:
Funerals can be patchy affairs for Martha Rose and her close-knit circle of friends–especially in the case of a missing body. . .

When Birdie Watson’s husband Russell is killed during a bank robbery, Martha just wants to support her grieving friend. But en route to the burial plot in Oregon, Martha makes a harrowing discovery about the casket’s contents–instead of Russell, she finds an unidentified man. Now Martha and her quilting klatch can’t rest in peace until they unspool the truth behind the macabre mix up. . .

About the author:
Born and raised in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, Mary Marks earned a B.A. in Anthropology from UCLA and an M.A. in Public Administration from the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. In 2004 she enrolled in the UCLA Extension Writers Program. Her first novel, Forget Me Knot, was a finalist in a national writing competition in 2011. She is currently a reviewer of cozy mysteries for The New York Journal of Books atwww.nyjournalofbooks.com.

Readers can visit her at www.marymarksmysteries.com and https://www.facebook.com/mmarks2013

Purchase Links
AmazonB&N

Giveaway:


Tour Participants
July 11 – Babs Book Bistro – REVIEW, GUEST POST
July 12 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – INTERVIEW
July 13 – Shelley’s Book Case – REVIEW
July 14 – My funny View of life – REVIEW
July 15 – The Power of Words – REVIEW
July 15 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
July 16 – Bookjunkie’s Book Blog – REVIEW
July 18 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW
July 19 – Island Confidential – INTERVIEW
July 20 – A Holland Reads – SPOTLIGHT
July 21 – Melina’s Book Blog – REVIEW
July 22 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – REVIEW
July 23 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT
July 24 – Cozy Up With Kathy – GUEST POST

July 19, 2016

To Follow Her Heart by Rebecca DeMarino - Review

I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

Published: July 19, 2016
Number of pages: 352
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Southold Chronicles #3


Synopsis:
Satisfying, Emotionally Rich Conclusion to The Southold Chronicles Series

It is 1664 and Patience Terry is devastated to learn that Captain Jeremy Horton's ship has been shipwrecked off the coast of Barbados, with no survivors. She had hoped that Jeremy would someday give up the sea and settle down with her in Southold, Long Island.

Unaware his memorial service is being planned, Jeremy is rescued and aboard a British Naval Gunship with secret orders to attack New Amsterdam and claim it for the British Crown. When he makes his surprise return to Southold--and to an overjoyed Patience--it's not the happily-ever-after his beloved had hoped for.

With a finely tuned sense for authentic historical characters and settings, Rebecca DeMarino plunges readers into the 17th century--a world of high seas and tall ships, daring journeys and yearning hearts.

What did I think of this book:
I am sad that this series has now ended but at the same time will be excited what this author has to give us next. Each book in this series has been better that the last - all of them have been great books. This was a book that I sat down to read and did not want to stop and in fact read it in an entire weekend. There are many emotions you will go through while reading this book as you are grieving for Jeremy, then happiness that he is alive, then mad, then happy again with the bit of romance. I liked how some of the same characters show up again in this book as it was like visiting relatives that you have missed and are getting to see again. Rebecca does a good job with her descriptions of places and developing her characters. Like with the other two books you can tell she does her research. I will be watching for more books by her. I do suggest reading this series in order.

About the author:
When Rebecca DeMarino traveled in 1999 to Horton Point, Long Island, with her mother, Helen Jean Horton Worley to discover their heritage, passions collided: her love of faith, family, travel, history, and writing. Rebecca's debut novel, A PLACE IN HIS HEART (Revell, 2014), is a historical romance based on Mary and Barnabas Horton, Rebecca's ninth great-grandparents. Book two of THE SOUTHOLD CHRONICLES series, TO CAPTURE HER HEART, is available now. Book three in the series, TO FOLLOW HER HEART, releases in July and is available for pre-order. From PUBLISHER WEEKLY ~ "DeMarino's ... strong suit is recreating history and relating it to readers."

The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose - Review and Giveaway

I received this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

Published: July 19, 2016
Number of pages: 320
Genre: Fiction/Mystery
Series: Daughters of La Luna #2

Synopsis:
AS WORLD WAR I RAGES AND THE ROMANOV DYNASTY REACHES ITS SUDDEN, BRUTAL END, A YOUNG JEWELRY MAKER DISCOVERS LOVE, PASSION, AND HER OWN HEALING POWERS IN THIS RICH AND ROMANTIC NOVEL BY NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR M.J. ROSE.

Nestled deep within Paris’s historic Palais Royal, safe inside La Fantasie Russie’s once-bustling workshop, young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi spends her days making trench watches for soldiers at the front and mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. Opaline has a rare gift, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones enable her to receive messages from beyond. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her. So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family.

Full of romance, seduction, and a love so powerful it reaches beyond the grave, The Secret Language of Stones is yet another “entrancing read that will long be savored” (Library Journal, starred review).
“Spellbinding.” —Alyson Richman, author of The Lost Wife

What did I think of this book:
This was a great addition to an enjoyable series. The author always has a way of drawing you into her books and the next thing you know you are lost in another time and place. She has a way with her words that includes such detail that you feel like you are really a part of the story. I think she also does a good job with capturing the time and place in this story. I felt as if I was really in Paris. There is plenty of romance, suspense and adventure to please me. There is also bits of history that are included which is a bonus to the story. Don't forget about the mixture of a little magic and witchcraft. Even though this is the second book in a series you are able to read it as a stand alone book. I look forward to more books by this author.


About the author:
M.J. Rose grew up in New York City exploring the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum and the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park —and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed. She is the author of more than a dozen novels, the co-president and founding board member of International Thriller Writers, and the founder of the first marketing company for authors, AuthorBuzz.com. She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Please visit her website, her blog: Museum of Mysteries

Subscribe to her mailing list and get information about new releases, free book downloads,
contests, excerpts and more.

Or send an email to TheFictionofMJRose-subscribe at yahoogroups dot com

To send M.J. a message and/or request a signed bookplate, send an email to mjroseauthor at gmail dot com

Follow her on Facebook and Twitter

Buy the book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Books A Million

Giveaway:
Global giveaway open to US residents only: 9 participants will each win a print copy of this book.



BOOK TOUR SCHEDULE

Tuesday, July 19
Review + Giveaway at A Holland Reads

Wednesday, July 20
Review + Giveaway at Queen of All She Reads


Thursday, July 21


Friday, July 22
Review + Giveaway at I’m Lost in Books

Review + Giveaway at Reading To Unwind

Saturday, July 23
Review + Excerpt + Giveaway at Book Nerd

Sunday, July 24
Spotlight + Giveaway at Words And Peace

Monday, July 25
Review at Poof Books
Review + Giveaway at Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, July 26
Review at Bookramblings

Review + Giveaway at Savvy Verse & Wit

Wednesday, July 27

Thursday, July 28
Review + Giveaway at From L.A. to LA

July 18, 2016

Paris Runaway by Paulita Kincer - Spotlight and Giveaway


Published: June 30, 2016
Number of pages: 220
Genre: Women's Fiction

Synopsis:
When divorced mom Sadie Ford realizes her 17-year-old daughter Scarlett has run away to Paris all she can imagine are terrorist bombings and sex slaves. After learning her daughter chased a French exchange student home, Sadie hops on the next plane in pursuit. She joins forces with the boy’s father, Auguste, and the two attempt to find the missing teens before they can stumble into more trouble. The chase takes Sadie and Auguste to the seedier side of Marseille, where their own connection is ignited. Since the divorce, Sadie has devoted herself to raising kids and putting her dreams on hold, but when her daughter needs her most, Sadie finds that concrete barrier to life beginning to crack. In her journey, she learns the difference between watching the hours pass and living.

About the author:
Paulita Kincer has an M.A. in journalism from American University. She has traveled to France 11 times,and still finds more to lure her back. She currently teaches college English and lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her three children, two cats and one husband.

Visit her website www.paulitakincer.com and her blog at http://www.paulita-onderings.blogspot.comor follow her on Twitter @paulitakincer Like her Facebook page at Paulita Kincer Writer.
Email paulita@paulitakincer.com

Buy the book (print, ebook audiobook): Amazon

Giveaway:
2 winners, choice of print or digital copy of this book.


Tour Participants:

Monday, July 18
Spotlight + Giveaway at A Holland Reads

Tuesday, July 19
Spotlight + Giveaway at Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, July 20
Spotlight + Giveaway at Fuonlyknew

Thursday, July 21
Spotlight + Giveaway at The Silver Dagger Scriptorium

Friday, July 22
Spotlight + Interview + Giveaway at Library of Clean Reads

Saturday, July 23
Review + Giveaway at The French Village Diaries

Sunday, July 24
Review + Giveaway at Book and Ink
Spotlight + Guest-Post + Giveaway at Bookwormerz

Monday, July 25
Review + Excerpt + Giveaway at Musings of a Writer & Unabashed Francophile

Tuesday, July 26
Review + Excerpt + Giveaway at Queen of All She Reads
Spotlight + Giveaway at Words And Peace

Wednesday, July 27



July 15, 2016

As Death Draws Near by Anna Lee Huber - Spotlight and Giveaway

02_As Death Draws Near

Published: July 5, 2016
Number of pages: 336 
Genre: Cozy Mystery Historical
Series: Lady Darby Mystery #5
  

Synopsis:
 The latest mystery from the national bestselling author of A Study in Death tangles Lady Kiera Darby and Sebastian Gage in a dangerous web of religious and political intrigue. July 1831. In the midst of their idyllic honeymoon in England’s Lake District, Kiera and Gage’s seclusion is soon interrupted by a missive from her new father-in-law. A deadly incident involving a distant relative of the Duke of Wellington has taken place at an abbey south of Dublin, Ireland, and he insists that Kiera and Gage look into the matter. Intent on discovering what kind of monster could murder a woman of the cloth, the couple travel to Rathfarnham Abbey school. Soon a second nun is slain in broad daylight near a classroom full of young girls. With the sinful killer growing bolder, the mother superior would like to send the students home, but the growing civil unrest in Ireland would make the journey treacherous. Before long, Kiera starts to suspect that some of the girls may be hiding a sinister secret. With the killer poised to strike yet again, Kiera and Gage must make haste and unmask the fiend, before their matrimonial bliss comes to an untimely end... 


Praise for the Lady Darby Mysteries
“Riveting…Huber deftly weaves together an original premise, an enigmatic heroine, and a compelling Highland setting for a book you won’t want to put down.”—Deanna Raybourn, New York Times bestselling author “[A] history mystery in fine Victorian style!”—Julia Spencer-Fleming, New York Times bestselling author “[A] fascinating heroine…A thoroughly enjoyable read!”—Victoria Thompson, national bestselling author “[A] clever heroine with a shocking past and a talent for detection.”—Carol K. Carr, national bestselling author 

About the Author
Anna Lee Huber is the Award-Winning and National Bestselling Author of the Lady Darby Mystery Series. She was born and raised in a small town in Ohio, and graduated summa cum laude from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN with a degree in music and a minor in psychology. She currently resides in Indiana, and when not working on her next book she enjoys reading, singing, traveling and spending time with her family. 

For more information please visit www.annaleehuber.com

Connect with Anna Lee Huber on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads

Giveaway
To win a paperback copy of As Death Draws Near by Anna Lee Huber, please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below. Two copies are up for grabs! Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. 

04_As Death Draws Near_Book Blast Banner_FINAL

Blog Tour Schedule
Tuesday, July 5 

Wednesday, July 6 

Thursday, July 7 

Friday, July 8 

Saturday, July 9 

Sunday, July 10 

Monday, July 11 

Tuesday, July 12 

Wednesday, July 13 

Thursday, July 14 

Friday, July 15