Friday, December 7, 2018

ROCCO's December Cozies!

Merow!
It's time for my December cozy reviews!

First up....

EGGS ON ICE
A Cackleberry Club Mystery
Berkley Prime Crime
Laura Childs
December 4, 2018
Five Stars!



The women of the Cackleberry Club are back in this holiday themed mystery!  When the Ghost of Christmas Past stabs Ebenezer Scrooge during a dress rehearsal for the Kindred PLayers production of "A Christmas Carol", it spurs Suzanne into action. Even though the crusty attorney playing Scrooge wasn't the most popular man in town, it's still a shock, especially to Suzanne, who ends up chasing the murderer out of the building but loses him in the alley.  Suzanne, Toni and company find they have an increasingly long list of suspects:  the attorney's disgruntled partner?  the former secretary whom the attorney harassed? or Toni's husband Junior?  Laura Childs weaves a tangled web that readers will delight in unfolding!  Love this series! Five paws!


YULE BE DEAD
A Victoria Square Mystery
Lorraine Bartlett/Gayle Leeson
Berkley Prime Crime
November 27, 2018
four stars





It's Christmastime, but not everyone is jolly--especially not Vonne Barnett. Her dead body has been found in Victoria Square. Katie Bonner, the manager of Artisan's Alley, happens to be at the tea shop Vonne's mother, Francine, owns when the news is delivered. 

Vonne left a trail of men behind her so the suspects are many--but the clues are few. A broken teacup leads Katie to one of the suspects, but before she can investigate, she's attacked. Katie may be closing in on a murderer, but time is ticking because the murderer is definitely closing in on her.   A big fan of BArtlett's novels, and this one is excellent!  Four stars


JUST PLAIN  MURDER
An Amish Mystery
Laura Bradford
Berkley Prime Crime
November 27, 2018
Four Stars




Another fine entry in this series by one of my favorite authors!

Claire Weatherly and her beau, police detective Jakob Fisher, learn that when it comes to murder, evil can hide in plain sight in this all-new addition to the national bestselling Amish Mysteries.

Jakob and Claire have been enjoying more time together in lovely Heavenly, PA. With Claire's help, the detective is making slow progress reconnecting with the members of his Amish family who shunned him when he left to pursue a career in law enforcement. Jakob's mentor, Russ Granger, the long-retired police chief who inspired him to become a cop, is back in town. Claire has always wanted to meet the man who changed the course of Jakob's life. But not long after he arrives in Heavenly, Russ is murdered. 

Jakob can only imagine that his old friend must have been killed by someone outside of the Amish community. He and Claire soon find that things are not as they seem--and that Russ may have stumbled into something sinister before he was killed. The answers they uncover are closer to home and more shocking than they ever expected.  Four Stars!



A SPELL OF MURDER
Witch Cats of Cambridge
Clea Simon
Polis Books
December 11, 2018
Four 1/2 paws!



As a longtime fan of both cats and paranormal, I was anxious to read A Spell of Murder.  It has all the ingredients i like in a mystery: cats, a touch of the paranormal and a little romance!

Newly single Becca wants to believe she has psychic powers. With nothing but time – and a desire for empowerment – she’s studying to become a witch. What she doesn’t know is that her three cats – Harriet, Laurel, and Clara – are the ones with the real power. And when Harriet – “a cream-colored longhair with more fur than commonsense” – conjures a pillow for her own comfort, Becca believes her spells are finally working. Could that be why Trent, the coven’s devilishly handsome leader, has been showing her special attention? Or why Suzanne, a longtime coven member, draws her aside to share a secret – a confidence that may lead to murder?  Think Charmed comes to Cabot Cove and you've got it!
Four 1/2 stars!


LIVE AND LET PIE
A bakeshop mystery
Ellie Alexander
St. Martin's Paperbacks
December 31, 2018
4 1/2 stars




I love this series by Ellie Alexander.  I'm always ready for another adventure with baker Jules Capshaw! 

The heat is on for pastry chef, family business operator, and unlikely sleuth Jules Capshaw. Just when she thought she could enjoy some time away from the kitchen, Jules manages to discover a skull during a picnic by the lake. As if unearthing remains that may be connected to a missing-persons case from the 1960s isn’t enough on her plate, Jules must contend with the unsolved matter of her own marriage while her estranged husband Carlos sails the open seas, awaiting a verdict. Then there’s Jules’s bitter landlord Edgar, who is intent on making a sweet deal on a vacant lot down the block from Torte―until he turns up dead. If only Jules could find a recipe that would let her bake her cake and eat it, too…

Loved the latest instalment and fans of this series will too.  Four 1/2 stars!


ONE TASTE TOO MANY
A Sarah Blair Mystery
Debra Goldstein
Kensington
December 18, 2018
four 1/2 stars

A new series that combines some things I love, namely food and cats!

Married at eighteen, divorced at twenty‑eight, Sarah Blair reluctantly swaps her luxury lifestyle for a cramped studio apartment and a law firm receptionist job in the tired hometown she never left. With nothing much to show for the last decade but her feisty Siamese cat, RahRah, and some clumsy domestic skills, she’s the polar opposite of her bubbly twin, Emily—an ambitious chef determined to take her culinary ambitions to the top at a local gourmet restaurant . . .

Sarah knew starting over would be messy. But things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by Emily’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with RahRah wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and Emily wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to figure out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death—being in the kitchen!

An excellent start to a promising new series!  Four 1/2 stars!


WIN ONE OF ROCCO'S REVIEW COPIES
You could win ROCCO's review copy of Yule be Dead!




To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
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* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! US entries only please! Contest closes midnight, 12/15/18

Friday, November 30, 2018

ROCCO's guest....Laura Childs!


A Guest Blog with Laura Childs, New York Times
bestselling cozy writer and author of EGGS ON ICE,
a Cackleberry Club Mystery.


Thank you so much, ROCCO, for inviting me to be a guest on your blog. Though there are no cats with starring roles in Eggs on Ice, I do have a couple of dogs. (I think you’re okay with that, because Baxter and Scruff are rather sweet canines.) And then there’s Mocha Gent the horse and Grommet the mule.

While these critters aren’t exactly crime-fighters, they do reflect greatly on my main character Suzanne’s true nature. A rescue dog like Scruff speaks volumes to Suzanne’s kindness and compassion. An older dog like Baxter, who’s been with Suzanne all his life, shows her loyalty and understanding.

Whenever Suzanne and her Cackleberry Club friends are in trouble, these creatures are there to provide a soft, furry coat to cry on or offer up a brave understanding of their struggles. Baxter and Scruff’s actions sometimes even mirror Suzanne’s turmoil and their companionable silence often results in Suzanne reaching a conclusion and taking decisive action.

In this regard, Baxter and Scruff are extremely helpful when the Kindred Players hold their first dress rehearsal for A Christmas Carol. A strange ghost wafts onstage and murders the star of the show. Shocked from her perch in the wings, Suzanne chases this spooky specter through the shadowy backstage of the theatre, but loses him when he escapes into a snowstorm. Feeling angry and threatened, Suzanne returns home to where her dogs lend their silent comfort and she ultimately decides to run her own shadow investigation. From there she attempts to juggle a multitude of suspects that include the mayor of small town Kindred, a strange visiting minister, a former female employee of the victim, and the play’s director.

When things go from bad to worse, Suzanne pays a visit to Mocha and Grommet where she does some quiet reflection in the solitude and safety of their old red barn. Feeling renewed, Suzanne goes on to deal with holiday tea parties, a second murder, a devastating fire, and a terrifying car crash.

Besides sympathetic animal characters, Eggs on Ice also offers plenty of outrageous humor, cozy moments, and recipes that include Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Pork, Elvis French Toast, Pumpkin Breakfast Casserole, and Church Basement Funeral Bars.

Eggs on Ice is one of the most exciting, heartwarming, and personally enthralling books that I’ve ever written. And I’m equally delighted that every single chapter features a scary, shivery scene, outrageous humor, and delicious food descriptions. Best of all, there’s no filler, it’s all thriller, and a delightful pre-Holiday read!

Love,

Laura


Church Basement Funeral Bars,
a bonus recipe from Eggs on Ice

1/3 cup melted butter
1 ½ cups graham crackers, crushed
1 cup coconut flakes
1 cup dates, cut up
1 cup candied cherries, cut up
1 cup candied pineapple, cut up
1 cup pecans
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In bowl, combine melted butter with the graham cracker crumbs. Pat crumb mixture into a 9 x 13 inch pan. Then press each ingredient, in a single layer, on top of the crumbs, starting with the coconut flakes. Then press on the dates, then cherries, then pineapple, then pecans. Cover the entire dessert with the sweetened condensed milk. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Yields 15 to 18 bars.



BIO


Laura Childs is the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author of the Scrapbooking Mysteries, Tea Shop Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. Recently, Book Riot named her mysteries to their list of “25 of the All Time Best Cozy Mystery Series.” In her previous life Laura was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, enjoys travel, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.

 GIVEAWAY TIME!

Laura will give away an autographed copy of EGGS ON ICE to one lucky commenter!

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:



* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. US entries only please. Contest ends midnight, December 6. Good luck!


Friday, November 16, 2018

Murder he Wrote.....a look at the new face of Jessica Fletcher, courtesy of Jon Land

Meow!

Any dyed in the wool cozy fan is most likely a devotee of the old television series, MURDER SHE WROTE, starring Angela Lansbury as America's favorite English teacher turned sleuth, Jessica Fletcher, and the HUMAN and I are no exception!  Below is our take on the latest in this tried and true cozy series, MANUSCRIPT FOR MURDER, and then as a special surprise, we have the new co-author, Jon Land, give us his take on reinventing Jessica for the 21st century.

MANUSCRIPT FOR MURDER
Penguin/Random House
Jessica Fletcher/Jon Land
FIVE PAWS!!!!!!

Jon Land, taking over the co-author mantle from Donald Bain, has managed to take Jessica into the 21st century with his fresh take on this tried and true series!

This time out, Jessica gets involved in espionage when her publisher is found dead under what she considers suspicious circumstances.  Land ratchets up the suspense factor in this tried and true cozy series, elevating it to the level of "thrillzie". Part thriller, part cozy.

Dedicated fans will love this new, more daring Jessica - I know I do!!!!  Five Paws!!!!!!!  Actually, it's more like ten, meow!

And now I'm pleased to introduce the new co-author of the MURDER SHE WROTE series, Jon Land, who will give us his take on reinventing Jessica for her legions of fans!



Thank you, ROCCO!

MURDER, HE WROTE
Jon Land


Jessica Fletcher became part of my life back in May of 2017 when my agent called to ask whether I’d be interested in working with Don Bain on the MURDER, SHE WROTE series. Don’s health was failing and needed a writing partner who’d eventually succeed him. Well, having never written a straight mystery, a cozy, or from the first person POV, I immediately said I would. Because that’s the thing about this business: When given an opportunity, the answer is yes—what was the question?

            Sadly, the health of Don Bain, who’d written all 46 books in the series, failed faster than expected and I was left on my own early in the process; well, not quite alone. You see, Don’s talented grandson Zach had been working with him prior to my involvement and he became a vital resource and sounding board for me. Indeed, my first responsibility was to be true to the traditions of the series and Don Bain’s legacy following his passing.

MAKING THE SERIES MY OWN

            When was the moment the series became mine? That’s easy: From the moment I found Jessica’s voice banging around my head, louder and louder every time I sat down behind the keyboard. The process wasn’t as nearly as hard as it should because I let Jessica do the hard work, the heavy lifting. I wasn’t very familiar with the books at all, but did recall the great TV episodes from back in the 80s and 90s. So I was channeling Angela Lansbury the whole way, picturing her as Jessica in every scene and moment, to the point where I found myself much more reliant on the mythology from the television series than the books. In MANUSCRIPT FOR MURDER, for example, Artie Gelber (played by Herb Edelman for about a dozen episodes) plays a big role, even though he never appears in the books.

What made all this work was listening to Jessica, following her lead instead of asking her to follow mine. The problem is she’s speaking to me, not Don Bain anymore, and that means the books, and Jessica herself, are going to be different than what some readers are accustomed to or prefer. But I could never take over this or any other series without putting my own stamp on it and making it my own.

BEING TRUE TO BOTH OF US

The thing is above all else I need to be true to both Jessica and myself. Writing and/or storytelling have to be organic. It has to come from the inside out, rather than the outside in which is what writing to a formula implies. Cozies have established formulas that were very difficult for me to emulate because it’s not my genre of choice. So I think what I created was something we can call the “cozy thriller” in that I’m striving to preserve what readers love most about MURDER, SHE WROTE, while adding the kind of pacing, suspense and plotting they may have seen before. Based on some of the comments on Amazon, that transition wasn’t entirely seamless. In a perfect world, every established fan of MSW will love my approach even as legions of new readers discover or rediscover the series. But this isn’t a perfect world and I know diverting from some of the established templates of the cozy culture is going to upset some readers. At that same time, I believe far more are going to feel that I’ve kept plenty of the cozy structure intact while injecting elements to keep the series fresh.
I had kind of inherited my first effort, A DATE WITH MURDER, from Don about 60 pages in, so MANUSCRIPT was my first tale I developed on my own, the first that was truly my own. That said, this is a process and I’m continuing to learn from criticism both constructive and negative. My next effort coming May, MURDER IN RED, is much more of a mystery in which Jessica’s incredibly keen powers of observation are displayed in much the same manner fans will recall from the TV series. But Sheriff Mort Metzger now calls her “Jessica” instead of “Mrs. Fletcher,” and she has more of an edge about her, appearing more determined and relentless in pursuit of justice.

JESSICA IN THE 21ST CENTURY

You see, I’ve made a conscious decision to write this series the way it would be if it had been originated today, instead of trying to replicate the 1980s absent cell phones, UBER, the instantaneous information age and 24/7 news cycle. Instead of portraying Jessica in a vacuum, I’ve chosen to portray her as a creature of her environment instead of in spite of it. Cabot Cove is still Cabot Cove, but I portray the once bucolic village as a kind of mini-Hamptons of the North during the summer months, much to the chagrin of Jessica and the other series regulars. She will always be the same Jessica but the world around her isn’t going to remain frozen in time. So, too, we will see the return of more and more popular characters like romantic interest George Sutherland from the books (MURDER IN RED) and Jessica’s nephew Grady from the TV show.

August, by the way, will see the publication of the 50th book in the MSW book series, A TIME FOR MURDER. And to commemorate that, for the first time ever, in books or TV, the audience is going to meet Jessica for the first time as a younger woman still married to her husband Frank and serving as a substitute English teacher before her writing career had begun. A murder back then will be directly connected to a murder in the present back in Cabot Cove and Jessica will narrate them both, even as she uncovers the connections.


The series, after all, may now belong to me, but Jessica belongs to the world and the legions of fans who’ve followed her for more than 30 years. I should know, because I’m one of them.


Thank you, Jon for your insights! I know I can't wait to read those instalments!

OUR THANKSGIVING SURPRISE! 

GIVEAWAY - WIN ROCCO'S AUTOGRAPHED REVIEW COPY OF MANUSCRIPT FOR MURDER!

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. US entries only, please. Contest ends midnight, November 24!  So take some time out from gobbling turkey and Black Friday shopping and enter!

Good luck!








Sunday, November 11, 2018

Guest Poster - Sharon Farrow!


Lights . . . Camera . . . Action:
Casting the Berry Basket Mysteries
by
Sharon Farrow

Although I always describe the physical appearances of my characters in the Berry Basket books, readers still ask for more details about Marlee, her baker Theo, or the imperious Piper. To give a better insight into how I view the inhabitants of my fictional village, I’ve decided to play casting director and hire the appropriate actors for an imaginary TV series based upon the mysteries.

Of course the star of the show is Marlee Jacob, the 30-year-old owner of The Berry Basket shop in Oriole Point, Michigan. I always describe her as a pretty brunette, but in KILLED ON BLUEBERRY HILL I expand on that. Marlee’s aunt claims her niece looks just like Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality– but after her beauty makeover. Aunt Vicki adds that Marlee also resembles England’s future Queen Mum, Kate Middleton. Especially since both Kate and Marlee have beautiful manes of dark hair. Sandra and the Duchess of Cambridge serve as apt models for Marlee, who is attractive, but not dripping with red carpet glamour.

The Berry Basket character who does glam best is Marlee’s friend, Natasha. The former Russian beauty queen oozes enough glamour to qualify as a Hollywood pin-up girl. Or a Kardashian. With her killer figure, mass of wavy brown hair, and form fitting wardrobe, Natasha is the spitting image of Brazilian super-model Adriana Lima. She even speaks with an accent, albeit a Russian one.

Two men vie for Marlee’s romantic interest: her fiancĂ© Ryan Zellar and a detective for the sheriff’s department called Atticus ‘Kit’ Holt. Since I’m a huge fan of Pitch Perfect, I see Kit as a slightly older version of the actor Skylar Astin, who played Anna Kendrick’s love interest in the film. Kit has his warm brown eyes, wide smile, and thick dark hair. Ryan was even easier to cast. When he first appears in the debut book, Marlee mentions how ironic  that Ryan not only resembles  Ryan Gosling, but also has the same first name. Ryan Zellar is lanky, sandy haired, blue eyed and irresistible to women. In fact, he may be a little too irresistible.

Marlee’s best friend Tess Nakamura sports a short, asymmetrical haircut and a level leaded demeanor. Although Tess is Japanese American, I envision her as the Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, who first came to fame in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. And the spiked blond hair and blue eyes of her longtime romantic partner, David Reese, bring to mind a less edgy, younger Billy Idol.

As for the employees of The Berry Basket, Gillian Kaminski’s long blonde hair and earnest expression reminds me of an adult Alice in Wonderland; the only difference is that Gillian wears wire-rim glasses. I always think of actress Mia Wasikowska whenever I write a scene featuring Gillian. The Berry Basket baker, Theo Foster, has boyish looks that make him appear younger than his thirty-seven years. And his wide-eyed probing gaze, cropped hair, and serious – sometimes quizzical – expression, can only belong to the star of Mr. Robot, Rami Malek.

Andrew and Dean, the irrepressible Cabot brothers, are tall, auburn haired, and handsome. One of the reasons I named the younger Cabot brother ‘Andrew’ is due to his resemblance to Andrew Garfield. Although I suspect my Andrew is far more fashion obsessed and gossipy than the actor.
Dean, the elder brother, resembles Justin Timberlake. Only he doesn’t sing or dance anywhere near as well as Justin does.

I mustn’t forget about Oriole Point’s power couple, Mayor Lionel Pierce and his wife Piper Lyall-Pierce, who were easy to cast. Famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson served as my model for Lionel, with his deep rumbling voice, imposing presence, and quiet authority.
Elegant, blond, blue-eyed Piper could only be played by Cate Blanchett, particularly in one of her haughtier roles.

Some Berry Basket characters are based on people in my own life. Old Man Bowman was inspired by a resident in my lakeshore village. As far as I know, this older gentleman doesn’t hunt Bigfoot, but his white hair pulled back in a skinny braid and daily wardrobe of cargo shorts and sandals make him a mirror image of my character. The eponymous owner of Coffee by Crystal looks like one of my closest friends. Several less appealing murder suspects have also been based on people I know. But I keep their real identities a secret. Some of them are relatives and I see no reason to spark a family feud. Not with the holidays on the horizon.

So if Hollywood ever decides to adapt my Berry Basket series, I am ready with recommendations for all the roles. Along with suggestions for wardrobe, sets, and music. And with a little cajoling, I might even be willing to direct.




Sharon Farrow is the latest pen name of award winning author Sharon Pisacreta. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Sharon has been a freelance writer since her twenties, with her first novel released in 1998. Published in mystery, fantasy, and romance, Sharon currently writes The Berry Basket cozy mystery series. She is also one half of the writing team D.E. Ireland, who co-author the Agatha nominated Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins mysteries.


Win a copy of KILLED ON BLUEBERRY HILL!

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. US entries only please!  Contest ends midnight, November 15. Good luck!




Monday, November 5, 2018

ROCCO welcomes THE TAROT CATS!!!!


MEOW!

Today I am interviewing Brandon and Ophelia, the real stars of Diane A.S. Stuckart's new series, The Tarot Cats!








Welcome Brandon and Ophelia! Tell us a bit about yourselves.

               Hi ROCCO. We are brother and sister felines almost two years old. We’re the coolest kind of cats because we’re all black (well, okay, we have a couple of white furs on our stomachs). We used to live in a place called Palm Beach but when our first human mom went to the People’s Bridge, her bad son abandoned us on the street. But a very fine human name Ruby found us and became our new mom.

How do you adjust to living with a pit bull? What do  you like/dislike about the breed?
               It was pretty scary for me, Ophelia, because the first time I saw Zuki she had her face stuck in that box I was lying in when Ruby found me. She has such a big mouth I thought she was going to eat me! But once I got to know her, I found out she’s almost as clever as a cat, and very nice, too. Though she can be tough if she needs to be. She’s not afraid of street dogs at all!

Tell us about your owner, Ruby.  How did that relationship come about?
               Ruby found me, Ophelia, in that awful box and brought me to the shelter place. But she didn’t leave me…she came back and took me home with her when the shelter people said it was okay. I think she needed someone to help her with reading Tarot because she’s not that good at it. You’ll have to read the book to find out how Brandon met her, Meow Out Loud!

What do you like best about Ruby? Least?
               This is Brandon. I think Ruby is really nice for a human. She gives us treats when we ask and even lets us sleep on her bed. I can’t think of anything bad to say about her. Except maybe she should give us more treats.

Ophelia, tell us a bit about your expertise with Tarot Cards. How did you discover you had the gift?
               Well, unless you’re human, it’s not like you have to be particularly clever to read the cards. They’re just a lot of pictures of people and animals doing things. I watch Ruby when she tells people about the cards she puts on the table, and I listen to what she says the cards mean. Ruby keeps forgetting that sometimes you need to pull extra cards if the ones on the table don’t have good pictures. So that’s what I do for her when she’s not looking. She doesn’t mind because it makes her look smart in front of her clients.

Tell us about your latest adventure, Fool’s Moon!
               That was a very exciting story! It’s set in the Botanica – you humans might call it a New Age store – where people come in all day long to buy statues and incense and herbs and crystals. And get their Tarot cards read, too! In this book, we had to solve many mysteries – what really happened to our first human mom who died, where Brandon disappeared to when he escaped the box, and what happened to our other human friend who had something bad happen. And we met some new humans, too…especially this one man named Luis. He and Ruby don’t like each other a whole lot, but we’re not sure why.
But about solving mysteries…we can’t tell you all the details, but Zuki was a very big help. She showed us how to sneak out of the yard and go searching for clues, and how to escape bad street dogs who want to fight. Oh, and we didn’t mention Philomena. She is a koi – a VERY big and old fish, though she lives in a very small pond in our courtyard. We think the pond goes all the way underground to the ocean, but we’re not sure. She knows how to tell the future. That would be useful, except she does dumb fish stuff like talking in rhyme all the time, so we’re never sure what she means. But she always turns out to be right! Ruby helped a little, too, even though humans aren’t really good at solving puzzles.

What do you think of Diane A.S. Stuckart’s portrayal of you?  Is she accurate?
               We think she is a clever writer, and the people who review books agree. But I (Ophelia) will tell you a secret. The real life Brandon is much brattier than Brandon in the book. And I’m the only one who helps with the writing. Brandon is usually lounging on his cat tower while Diane and I are at the computer. She would never finish a book if I weren’t there to supervise.

What would you like to say to our readers?
               We really hope you like our book so that Diane can write more of them. And if you read her previous stories about Hamlet the cat who starred in the Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries, we think you’ll like our story. Hamlet hangs out with us on our Facebook page: facebook.com/blackcatmysteries and he taught us how to be good cat detectives.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

DIANE A.S. STUCKART is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series (written as Ali Brandon). She’s also the author of the award-winning Leonardo da Vinci historical mysteries, as well as several historical romances and numerous mystery, fantasy, and romance short stories. The first book in her new Tarot Cats cozy mystery series is FOOL’S MOON, on the shelves from Midnight Ink in early November 2018.

Diane is a member of Mystery Writers of America and has served as the 2018 Chapter President of the MWA Florida chapter. In addition to her mystery writing affiliations, she’s a member of the Cat Writers’ Association and belongs to the Palm Beach County Beekeepers Association. She’s a native Texan with a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, but has been living in the West Palm Beach FL area for the past dozen or so years. She shares her “almost in the Everglades” home with her husband, dogs, cats, and a few beehives.
Photo credit James Eisele

GIVEAWAY TIME!!!!!

Diane, Brandon and Ophelia will give away a signed copy of FOOL'S MOON to one lucky commenter!


To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. US entries only please. Contest ends midnight, November 10.  Good luck!


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

TRICK OR TREAT! ROCCO's November Cozy Reviews! A day early!

Meow!  Here are my reviews for November, (and there are a lot!) starting with:

MURDER SHE WROTE
MANUSCRIPT FOR MURDER
A Murder She Wrote mystery
Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land
Berkley Prime Crime
Hardcover
November 6, 2018
Five Paws!!!!!!

We will do a more in-depth look at this book and series next week,but in the meantime....all I can say is WOW!  Jon Land has breathed new life into this tried and true series, and this adventure sparkles with spine tingling suspense! A must read for fans of the series (and those who are not, too1) Five Paws!



City of Secrets
A counterfeit lady novel
Victoria Thompson
Berkley; Hardcover
November 6, 2018
Four Paws!

An exciting new book in the series featuring woman-on-the-run Elizabeth Miles--from the beloved national bestselling author of the Gaslight Mysteries.

Elizabeth Miles knows that honesty is not always the best policy when it comes to finding justice.

Elizabeth has discovered that navigating the rules of high society is the biggest con of all. She knows she can play the game, but so far, her only success is Priscilla Knight, a dedicated young suffragist recently widowed for the second time. Her beloved first husband died in a tragic accident and left her with two young daughters--and a sizable fortune. While she was lost in grief, Priscilla's pastor convinced her she needed a man to look after her and engineered a whirlwind courtship and hasty marriage to fellow parishioner Endicott Knight. Now, about nine months later, Endicott is dead in what appears to be another terrible accident. 

Priscilla stands to lose everything, and Elizabeth is determined not to let that happen. But, as always, Elizabeth walks a fine line between using her unusual talents and revealing her own scandalous past. Elizabeth soon discovers that Endicott's death was anything but accidental, and revealing the truth could threaten much more than Priscilla's finances. An excellent addition to this fine series!


A Wrench in the Works
A Fixer Upper Mystery
Kate Carlisle
Berkley Prime Crime
Mass Market Paperback
November 6, 2018
4 1/2 paws

It's easy to see how this popular series became a Hallmark movie!  Love to follow the adventures of Shannon Hammer!  Now her sister Chloe is back in town to film some segments of her popular home repair show.  But when the executive producer is found dead, there are plenty of supsects, including Chloe.  Shannon's investigation leads to the discovery of why her sister moved away from Lighthouse Cove many years ago - could it be connected to the murder?

This was one of my favorites in the series, which i admit i discovered via the Hallmark movies.  Kate Carlisle does an excellent job!  Four and a half paws!


Twas the Knife Before Christmas
Jacqueline Frost
Crooked Lane
Hardcover
November 27, 2018
4 1/2 paws!


I'm a sucker for anything Christmas, particularly this charming series by Jacqueline Frost!
When a body turns up in a larger-than-life candy bowl filled with peppermints on the town square, Holly White is horrified to learn her best friend Caroline is the main suspect. Everyone in town, including Mistletoe, Maine’s sheriff, saw Caroline fighting with the victim on the night of his death. Worse, a custom kitchen knife, engraved with Caroline's initials was found with him.
Now, just ten days before Christmas, Holly’s up to her jingle bells in holiday shenanigans and in desperate need of a miracle. Juggling extra shifts at her family’s Christmas tree farm and making enough gingerbread jewelry to satisfy the crowd is already more than she can handle―and now she has to find time to clear her best friend of murder. Add in her budding relationship with the sheriff, and a personal stalker dressed as Santa Claus, and Holly’s ready to fly south until springtime.
But her Sherpa-lined mittens come off when Caroline is taken into custody. Can Holly wrap up the case in time for Christmas…even after she gains the true killer’s attention? I loved the first book in this series and the second does not disappoint! Four and a half paws

A Midwinter's Tail
Bethany Blake
Kensington
November 23, 2018
Four 1/2 paws!

I love, love, love this charming series by Bethany Blake.  The characters are so quirky and yet so appealing at the same time, and the plots are well fleshed out.  What's not to love about a mystery featureing a pet sitter as the heroine?
In this one, Daphne Templeton loves the holidays and nothing gets her into the spirit more than the town’s annual Bark the Halls Ball. The whole community will be there to wag their tails, especially this year’s special guest—Celeste “CeeCee” French, founder of a national chain of pet care franchises, who’s returning home to announce plans for a bright new flagship store.
But not everyone’s celebrating CeeCee’s homecoming. Daphne’s friend Moxie Bloom, owner of Spa and Paw, a unique salon for people and their pets, has plenty to growl about. So when CeeCee is found face down under Sylvan Creek's town Christmas tree, stabbed with a distinctive pair of professional-grade pet shears, suspicion lands squarely on Moxie. Despite Daphne’s promises to Detective Jonathan Black, she quickly reprises her role as amateur sleuth. Excellent addition to a good series.  4 1/2 paws! 

Fool's Moon
A Tarot Cats Mystery
Diane A. S. Stuckart
Midnight Ink
November 8, 2018
Four 1/2 Paws!

The author who brought you Hamlet and the Black Cat Bookshop mysteries is back, with new characters and new cats!
Most days, Ruby Sparks feels like the sign that says Tarot Card Reader Extraordinaire should say Tarot Card Reader Barely Competent. But as challenging as it is to take care of her half-sister's new age shop—and her growing menagerie of mystically inclined pets—Ruby never worries that she's bitten off more than she can chew . . . until a customer wants her to divine the truth about a murder.
When her own life is threatened with a double dose of danger, Ruby begins to wonder if she's being played for a fool. Luckily, she has Aphelia and Brandon—sibling black cats with a talent for tarot—and a feisty pitbull friend who all lend a paw in collaring the culprit before Ruby finds herself taking her final cat nap.
I'm a fan of Diane's and I loved her other series. This one has great promise!  I look forward to more from Ruby and company! Four and 1/2 paws!

A Scandal in Scarlet
A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery
Vicki Delany
Crooked Lane; hardcover 
November 13, 2018
Five Paws!

I'm nuts over t his series and I'm not even a Sherlock Holmes fan!  I love the way Vicki Delany plots a book and her characters are delightful!  In this, the fourth instalment, Gemma Doyle, owner of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop, acts quickly when she smells smoke outside the West London Museum. Fortunately no one is inside, but it’s too late to save the museum’s priceless collection of furniture, and damage to the historic house is extensive. Baker Street’s shop owners come together to hold an afternoon auction tea to raise funds to rebuild, and Great Uncle Arthur Doyle offers a signed first edition of The Valley of Fear
Cape Cod’s cognoscenti files into Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room, owned by Gemma’s best friend, Jayne Wilson. Excitement fills the air (along with the aromas of Jayne’s delightful scones, of course). But the auction never happens. Before the gavel can fall, museum board chair Kathy Lamb is found dead in the back room. Wrapped tightly around her neck is a long rope of decorative knotted tea cups—a gift item that Jayne sells at Mrs. Hudson’s. Gemma’s boyfriend in blue, Ryan Ashburton, arrives on the scene with Detective Louise Estrada. But the suspect list is long, and the case far from elementary. Does Kathy’s killing have any relation to a mysterious death of seven years ago? 

Gemma has no intention of getting involved in the investigation, but when fellow shopkeeper Maureen finds herself the prime suspect she begs Gemma for her help. Ryan knows Gemma’s methods and he isn’t happy when she gets entangled in another mystery. But with so many suspects and so few clues, her deductive prowess will prove invaluable in A Scandal in Scarlet, Vicki Delany’s shrewdly plotted fourth Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery.  This one is a winner ( like the other three!)  5 Paws!

The Coloring Crook
Krista Davis
Kensington
November 25, 2018
Paperback
four 1/2 paws!

I'm a  huge fan of Krista Davis' two other series, so I was excited to read the first in her new series, Color Me Murder, for Kensington and the second one, THE COLORING CROOK, is just as good!
Life is looking rosy for Florrie Fox, manager of the Color Me Read bookstore in Georgetown, Washington D.C. She’s working on an adult coloring book of gardens, her romance with Sergeant Eric Jonquille has entered a new chapter, and the bookstore’s weekly coloring club is a source of friendship and entertainment. No member is more vibrant than Dolly Cavanaugh. Dolly likes to say she was blessed with beauty and cursed with lousy husbands, but at least she has a grown daughter and a stunning brownstone to show for it!

When Dolly’s love of garage sales results in her showing up at Color Me Read with a rare book in hand, Florrie is astounded. The Florist, the earliest known coloring book, was first published in 1760. An original copy would be worth a fortune—and someone else knows it. That same evening, Florrie finds Dolly dead on the floor of her apartment, a corner of a coloring book page clutched in her hand. As Florrie delves into Dolly’s past and her personal effects, she discovers a skeleton in the closet—literally—and a whole lot of shady suspects. One of them is an expert in the fine art of murder, but can Florrie draw the right conclusion?
Read it and find out!  4 1/2 paws!!!!!

A Cold Brew Killing
Lena Gregory
Lyrical Press
November 2018
Four Paws

This is the third entry in the "All Day Breakfast Cafe" msytery series, which I just discovered!

When an ice cream vendor discovers a frozen stiff, Florida diner owner Gia Morelli has to serve up some just desserts . . . 
 
Gia has become good friends with Trevor, a fun, flirtatious bachelor who owns the ice cream parlor down the street from her popular All-Day Breakfast CafĂ©. Trevor has the scoop on all sorts of local attractions and activities. But when he bursts into her diner, trembling and paler than a pint of French Vanilla, she can tell something's very wrong. Trevor points her toward his shop then passes out cold. When Gia runs down to his shop, she discovers a chilling sight—a dead body in the open freezer. But the ice cream man's troubles are just beginning. The police suspect him of this murder a la mode, especially when details of his questionable past surface. Gia believes in her friend and is determined to clear his name and find the real cold-blooded killer before someone else gets put on ice . . . 


Good mystery for a rainy day!  Gia is an interesting character that readers will enjoy getting to know. Four paws!


DEATH AND DAISIES
Amanda Flower
Magic Garden Mysteries
Crooked Lane
November 13, 2018
four Paws

A favorite author of mine, Amanda Flower, continues her "Magic Garden' series over at Crooked Lane with the second instalment.

Fiona Knox thought she was pulling her life back together when she inherited her godfather’s cottage in Duncreigan, Scotland—complete with a magical walled garden. But the erstwhile Tennessee flower shop owner promptly found herself puddle boot-deep in danger when she found a dead body among the glimmering blossoms. One police investigation later (made a trifle less unpleasant by the presence of handsome Chief Inspector Neil Craig), and Fiona’s life is getting back on a steady, though bewitched, track. Her sister Isla has just moved in with her, and the grand opening of her new spellbound venture, the Climbing Rose Flower Shop in Aberdeenshire, is imminent. 

But dark, ensorcelled clouds are gathering to douse Fiona’s newly sunny outlook. First, imperious parish minister Quaid MacCullen makes it undeniably clear that he would be happy to send Fiona back to Tennessee. Then, a horrific lightning storm, rife with terribly omen, threatens to tear apart the elderly cottage and sends Fi and Isla cowering under their beds. The storm passes, but then, Fi is called away from the Climbing Rose’s opening soiree when Kipling, the tiny village’s weak-kneed volunteer police chief, finds a dead body on the beach. 

The body proves difficult to identify, but Kipling is certain it’s that of the parish minister. Which makes Fiona, MacCullen’s new nemesis, a suspect. And what’s worse, Isla has seemed bewitched as of late…did she do something unspeakable to protect her sister?  Good suspense!  four paws!


LAST BUT NOT LEAST (and there were many more mysteries released this month!)

LOOK ALIVE, TWENTY FIVE
Stephanie PLum series
GP Putnam Sons
Hardcover
November 13, 2018
four stars

The Stephanie Plum series has been a longtime favorite of mine, and here we are at volume number twenty-five!

There's nothing like a good deli, and the Red River Deli in Trenton is one of the best. World-famous for its pastrami, cole slaw, and for its disappearing managers. Over the last month, three have vanished from the face of the earth, and the only clue in each case is one shoe that's been left behind. The police are baffled. Lula is convinced that it's a case of alien abduction. Whatever it is, they'd better figure out what's going on before they lose their new manager, Ms. Stephanie Plum.

I always enjoy the banter between Stephanie and Lula, but I confess to getting a little tired of Stephanie wafflling between Morelli and Ranger. Make up your mind already!  The  msytery is typical PLum fare, with all the usual suspects present.  Always enjoyable! Four paws!

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