Saturday, May 30, 2020

ROCCO reviews THE MURDER OF TWELVE (A Murder She Wrote Mystery)

Meow!  Today I'm reviewing the latest in the Murder She Wrote mystery series, THE MURDER OF TWELVE.

Everyone knows I have been singing the praises of Jon Land ever since he took over as Jessica's co-writer from the late Donald Bain.  Land has used his thriller background to bring a different dimension to the series.  And, apart from too much bickering between Jessica and Mort (IMHO) I LOVE LOVE LOVE the last few books and the new fresh take he has given this tried and true series.  However, I do have to say that Murder of Twelve is  my favorite so far, probably because it's a nod to the great Agatha Christie and her famous locked room mysteries.

 Still staying at the Hill House hotel while her beloved home is being rebuilt, Jessica Fletcher finds herself sharing the space for a weekend with a dozen members of a wedding party who have gathered there for a rehearsal dinner. The families of the bride and groom can't stand each other but have agreed to put aside years of long-simmering tension to celebrate the nuptials.

     Unfortunately, weather forecasters underestimated the severity of a storm that turns into a historic blizzard that dumps nearly five feet of snow on Cabot Cove, leaving everyone stranded.

     But the hotel guests have bigger things to worry about than bad weather conditions and potential cold feet, because a murderer has shown up uninvited--one who has vowed to take them down one by one....

The suspense is ratcheted up from the first chapter and just keeps on going with more twists and turns than the Runaway Train at Disney.  The ending was a surprise to me and trust me, it's pretty hard to surprise me with an ending!  If you are looking for a good, old-fashioned page turner of a mystery, look no further than THE MURDER OF TWELVE!!!!!!!

A definite five paw!!!!!!!!!!

  • Series: Murder She Wrote (Book 51)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (May 26, 2020)
  • Rating:  Five Paws!!!!!!

Win ROCCO's review copy!

Want to win ROCCO's ARC of MURDER OF TWELVE?  Leave your name and email address in our comments section.  Winner wlll be chosen at random using (Or Maxx)  Contest ends  midnight, June 9th.  US entries only please.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

In ROCCO's hotseat: Karen Rose Smith!

Meow, today my guest is author Karen Rose Smith!

USA Today Bestselling Author Karen Rose Smith's 104th novel will be released in 2020! Her passion is caring for her five rescued cats...and strays who are siblings. Her hobbies are gardening, cooking, watercolor painting and photography. An only child, Karen delved into books at an early age. Even though she escaped into story worlds, she had many cousins around her on weekends. Families are a strong theme in her novels in both her mysteries and romances. One of her romances about a country singer hero was developed into a TV movie aired on the UP network the past two Christmases. Watching A VERY COUNTRY CHRISTMAS with friends is one of her dreams come true. Besides romances and mysteries with Kensington, she has published with Meteor/Kismet, Harlequin/Silhouette and Harper Collins/Harlequin. She has also indie published over 20 titles.

Welcome Karen! Let's get started!

R: Tell us a little about your background. 

Hi!  I'm Karen Rose Smith.  I write mystery, romance and women's fiction.  My 104th novel will be released in 2020. Besides writing, my passion is caring four our seven rescued cats. An only child, I delved into books at an early age. I learned about kindred spirits from Anne of Green Gables, solved mysteries with Nancy Drew, and wished I could have been the rider on The Black Stallion. Yet even though I escaped often into story worlds, I had many aunts, uncles and cousins around me on weekends. My sense of family and relationships began there.  Maybe that's why families are a strong theme in my novels, whether romances or mysteries, along with couples finding true love.

R: Tell us a bit about your latest book.

MURDER WITH CLOTTED CREAM is book 5 in my Daisy’s Tea Garden mystery series. Daisy owns a tea garden with her Aunt Iris. It’s a peaceful center of community spirit and gossip. In this cozy, Margaret Vaughn escaped her Mennonite family to become an actress in NY.  Now years later she has returned and her multi-millionaire husband has built her a Little Theater. But Margaret has old and new enemies. Daisy is serving tea at Margaret’s Lancaster County historic home, when Margaret is murdered.

Along with the mystery plot, Daisy’s romantic and family relationships continue in the series. She discovers a secret her mom has been keeping and helps her daughter deal with the birth of her first baby and post partem depression. Daisy’s caring about family and friends is one of the elements that I hope draw readers into the series. 

R: How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing a book?

The advantage of writing a series is that the same core characters appear from novel to novel. Before I use a character, I develop him or her. For instance when I thought about my sleuth Daisy Swanson, I knew I wanted her to be a mom with qualities like compassion and kindness along with intuition that helped her sleuth. I decided to make her a widow with heartache in her past to give her depth. I decided that one of her daughters would be adopted so I would have future plot content to pursue. Once in a while as I write about a character, she or he surprises me! That’s what takes my book in a new direction. 

R: How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or write by “the seat of your pants?”

I extensively outline. I began writing after back surgery. I was flat on my back for four years and needed a creative outlet to escape pain. Heavily outlining enables me to write each day no matter how I feel. It’s efficient for me when I’m under contract so I can pick up my synopsis and know exactly the point of my scene and where my characters are headed. 

R:What do you consider more important, plot or character?

I consider my characters to be more important. I believe my readers connect with my characters. My characters go through universal emotions and situations that my readers can relate to. My main characters drive the plot and give purpose to each scene that propels the book forward. 

R:What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer, and what inspires you and keeps you motivated? 

I’ve been published since 1992. I wrote on an average 3 books a year. I was fortunate editors liked my work and sales were good enough to keep me under contract. The challenge is writing books I can put my heart into yet are also marketable. With every book I try to find a spark, an emotional challenge, or an issue that I feel strongly about. From my excitement over the wild horses in the Big Horns, to a pilgrimage to a primitive church in Chimayo, NM where miracles occur, to the challenge for a cowboy with a knee replacement, date rape and abusive relationships, each of those plot points have to touch me deeply. Contracts, deadlines and causes keep me motivated.  

R:What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
At present, I’m working on Daisy’s Tea Garden book 7, MURDER WITH CLOTTED CREAM that will be released May 26. I will keep writing as long as editors like my work.  I’ve written romance, women’s fiction, mystery and even sci fi short stories! Hopefully I’ll adapt to changing needs in the marketplace. 

R:What is a typical work day for you and how many hours a day or week do you devote to writing? 
My process is probably different than most writers. Because of back surgery, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, I’ve had to adapt my writing style. After back surgery, I wrote long hand, laid on the floor and typed manuscript from papers clothes-pinned to a waste can. I don’t write on the computer or laptop. Since the late 90’s, I’ve been using a tape recorder. I send the tapes to a friend who has typed for me all these years, and then I edit the hard copy. My husband puts editing changes into the computer for me. I do write synopses, blogs, and promotional tidbits on my ipad. 

A typical work day used to consist of me writing all day! But with social media, that changed. Now, 80 percent of my time is probably about promoting my brand on Facebook, twitter and instagram. For a while with indie publishing along with traditional publishing my day was about uploading and keeping meta data up to date. I don’t write a certain amount of hours a day. I have writing quotas I adhere to according to deadlines. I like to write two chapters a week. 

R:If you could take 3 books to a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which 3 would you take? 
Three books I would take along would be The Prophet by Kalil Gibran, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Lady Chatterley’s Lover with essays by D.H. Lawrence. 

R:What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring writer?
Cultivate your personal attributes of persistence, patience and determination. Then read until you know what you want to write. Find your own niche.

R:What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done? 
Rescuing 7 cats and treating them like kids!  (R: Doesn’t sound crazy to me, meow!)

R:What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to learn about you?
I learned to ride a horse and swim when I was 26. 

R:Where can we learn more about you and your books.
I have two websites—a general one with romance included at And I also have a mystery website at

Just for Fun:
Night or Day?  Night
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Cat  (R:  Yay!  Good answer)
Beach or Pool?  Beach
Steak or salad?  Steak
Favorite Drink?  White grape juice
Favorite Book?  The Flame and The Flower
Favorite TV Series?  Heartland
Favorite Movie?  Ghost
Favorite Actor:  Titus Welliver
Favorite Actress: Maureen O’Hara
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada 
Hawaii or Alaska? Alaska

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Michelle Obama.

If I had just one wish, it would be for everyone to listen to each other and live in peace.

Where can we learn more about you and your books? 
Twitter @karenrosesmith

Thank you, Karen, for this great interview!

Karen will give away a $10 Amazon e-gift card to one lucky commenter!
To enter, leave your name and email address in our comments section.  To get extra entries, mention this interview and contest on Facebook, Twitter or your blog (if you have one).  Don’t forget to mention where you’ve mentioned it in your comment so you get credit.  Winner will be selected at random  using  Contest ends midnight, May 30

Thursday, May 7, 2020

ROCCO's May Cozy Reviews!

Ma-row!  Time for the May cozies!!!!!

First up, the next instalment in one of our very favorite series!!!!!!!

MAY 26, 2020

In the latest entry in this USA Today bestselling series, Jessica Fletcher takes on an Agatha Christie-style mystery when she finds herself stranded in a hotel during a blizzard with twelve strangers and a killer in their midst....

     Still staying at the Hill House hotel while her beloved home is being rebuilt, Jessica Fletcher finds herself sharing the space for a weekend with a dozen members of a wedding party who have gathered there for a rehearsal dinner. The families of the bride and groom can't stand each other but have agreed to put aside years of long-simmering tension to celebrate the nuptials.

     Unfortunately, weather forecasters underestimated the severity of a storm that turns into a historic blizzard that dumps nearly five feet of snow on Cabot Cove, leaving everyone stranded.

     But the hotel guests have bigger things to worry about than bad weather conditions and potential cold feet, because a murderer has shown up ininvited--one who has vowed to take them down one by one....

May I just say i love the direction that Land has taken this series in.  Aside from too much bickering between Jessica and Mort, the stories are crisp and well plotted.  This one has a twist even I didnt see coming!!!!!  They're rebooting everything else, why not Murder She Wrote??????  Definite five paw material.

Amish Candy Shop Mystery
Amanda Flower
  • Publisher: Kensington Books (May 26, 2020)
  • Publication Date: May 26, 2020
  • Four Paws

With Juliet Brody and Reverend Brook tying the knot in Ohio’s Amish Country’s most anticipated nuptials of the year, Bailey King is determined to do everything in her power to make the event a sweet success. Except midsummer heat waves and outdoor ceremonies don’t mix, and an exasperated Bailey soon finds herself struggling to fulfill bridesmaid duties and keep her stunning marshmallow-frosted wedding cake from becoming a gooey disaster. Then much to everyone’s shock, the entire ceremony crumbles when a guest drops dead, and the cause isn’t sunstroke . . .

Turns out, the uninvited victim came equipped with lots of dirt on the devout reverend’s hidden past. As Reverend Brook tops the murder suspect list on what should have been the happiest day of his life, Bailey and her sheriff’s deputy boyfriend vow to clear his name. Can the duo boil down a series of baffling clues before Juliet considers her marriage a bad mistake—or the killer whips up another deadly surprise?

Rita Mae Brown
Mrs. Murphy Series
Bantam Publishing
May 19, 2020
Four and a half stars

Mary Minor “Harry” Harristeen is on the hunt for a killer with a deadly green thumb when a day in the garden turns fatal in this exciting new mystery from Rita Mae Brown and her feline co-author Sneaky Pie Brown.  

Spring arrives in northern Virginia, and as the ground thaws and the peonies begin to bloom a bright magenta, the women of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church prepare for a Homecoming celebration like no other. Harry, Susan Tucker, and their friends are busy planting flowers and trimming hedges to get the church grounds in shape for the big day. 

But a note of a menace mars the beautiful spring: The brewery owned by Janice Childs and Mags Nielsen, two members of the gardening committee, gets robbed, with hundreds of dollars in merchandise taken off their delivery trucks in the dead of night. Is this the work of a random thief? Or is something more sinister afoot?
When Jeannie Cordle drops dead at a charity auction, poisoned by a fatal weed, Harry’s worst suspicions are confirmed: a killer lurks in their midst, one with a keen understanding of poisonous plants. Although she can’t yet prove it, Harry knows the murder is related to the thefts at Bottom’s Up Brewery.

With help from her feline sidekicks, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, as well as Tee Tucker the corgi and sweet puppy Pirate, Harry sets out to find the weed in St. Luke’s garden—and stop a killer before they can strike again.

Another great installment in a tried and true series.  Who doens't love Mrs. Murphy?????

Kathleen Bridges
Lyrical Press
May 5, 2020
four stars

Liz Holt is bewitched, bothered, and bewildered when a wicked killer objects to a wiccan wedding . . .   

Island life can get pretty weird. Wiccan weddings, psychic brides, mermaid parades, eccentric parrots . . . Novelist Liz Holt has gotten used to it since moving back to the barrier island of Melbourne Beach, Florida, and once again working in her family's hotel and emporium, the Indialantic by the Sea. But one thing she'll never get used to is murder.

Groom-to-be and leader of the Sunshine Wiccan Society, white warlock Julian Rhodes is poisoned at his rehearsal dinner on the hotel's sightseeing cruiser. His psychic bride, Dorian Starwood, never saw it coming. An old friend of Liz's great-aunt Amelia, the celebrity psychic engages Liz to find out who intended to kill her intended. With her Macaw, Barnacle Bob, squawking "Pop Goes the Weasel" at Dorian's pet ferret, and the streets teeming with mermaids in tails, Liz has got to wade through the weirdness and cast a wide net for the killer—before she's the next one to sleep with the fishes . .

A New to me series.  The Wiccan angle caught my eye (I'm a sucker for a good paranormal).  Enjoyable read.

Karen Rose Smith
May 26, 2020
four and a half paws

A catering job has come in for Daisy’s Tea Garden in Pennsylvania’s Amish country—but death will be served before dessert . . .

Margaret Vaughn has hired Daisy to provide afternoon tea for her theater group. A local girl who left long ago for an acting career in New York, Margaret has returned home—with a multimillionaire husband in tow. But while Daisy bustles around Margaret’s historic farmhouse, she senses that there’s tension behind the scenes. Then she discovers the hostess on the floor of the pantry—dead and covered with clotted cream.

Barely recovered from her previous sleuthing adventure, Daisy joins forces with the former detective she’s been dating to help solve the case. Should she cast suspicion on the stars of the upcoming play? Can Margaret’s sister shine a spotlight on potential culprits? Or are there clues to be found in the victim’s past? With plenty of family stress of her own to deal with, all Daisy knows is she better act fast . . .

I've read Karen Rose Smith's other series but not this one.  I was pretty confident I'd enjoy it and I wasn't disappointed.  Now I'll have to play catch up with the previous four in this series!!!!!

STAY HOME....STAY SAFE....READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Win one of Rocco's review copies!!!!!!

Leave a comment in our comments section with your name and email address. Winner will be chosen at random using (or Maxx!!!!!).. US entries only please!  Contest ends midnight May 21.