Five Stars for MAIDS OF MISFORTUNE

My five-star pick this week com­bines two of my loves—mystery and his­toric fic­tion. Maids of Mis­for­tune takes place in 1879 San Fran­cis­co. A young wid­ow sup­ports her­self as board­ing house own­er Annie Fuller, and, in dis­guise, as psy­chic Sibyl who gives per­son­al and finan­cial advice to clients. As a woman, she knows that no one would ever accept such advice from her, but they will accept it as com­ing from the stars. When one of her clients dies, sup­pos­ed­ly by sui­cide, she knows his finances weren’t in the sham­bles the police claim. When the police real­ize it was mur­der, they look to his fam­i­ly. Annie pos­es as a serv­ing girl for the fam­i­ly to find the truth.

The author, M. Louisa Locke, seam­less­ly puts the read­er square­ly in that time and place. While we are engrossed in the plot we notice the work involved to keep up a house, the atti­tudes of every­one toward a Chi­nese cook, Annie’s belat­ed real­iza­tion of what her laun­dry girl does, and the prob­lems of trav­el and com­mu­ni­ca­tion in an ear­li­er age.

Maids of Mis­for­tune is the first of a series (the ebook is now free). There are sev­er­al short sto­ries as well. The fourth full-length mys­tery in the series will be out this month.

Of inter­est to the writ­ers among my read­ers, M. Louisa Locke’s blog shares her ongo­ing mar­ket­ing plans for an inde­pen­dent writer. (Next week I’ll revis­it the upcom­ing Agatha awards with anoth­er good read.)

Agatha Nominee-CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE

My five star pick today is a two-fer—five stars plus Agatha nom­i­nee for Best First Nov­el!

It’s win­ter, the snow is pil­ing high, and Zoe Cham­bers, para­medic and deputy coro­ner in rur­al Penn­syl­va­nia is on the road with the emer­gency vehi­cle, try­ing to save lives. But some­one is mur­dered, and in a small town where every­one knows every­one else, there are a lot of secrets and con­nec­tions.

I read Cir­cle of Influ­ence last May with love­ly warm sun­shine, but author Annette Dashofy made me feel every bit of icy pre­cip­i­ta­tion as I set­tled down to read one great mys­tery, with unex­pect­ed rev­e­la­tions on almost every page.

If you haven’t yet read Cir­cle of Influ­ence, snug­gle into a blan­ket before a roar­ing fire and set­tle down to read one great not-quite-cozy mys­tery with an excel­lent plot and mem­o­rable char­ac­ters. And, if you attend Mal­ice Domes­tic in May, con­sid­er vot­ing for Cir­cle of Influ­ence.

Five Stars for LOWCOUNTRY BOIL

I read Low­coun­try Boil two years ago, short­ly after it was pub­lished by Hen­ery Press. Then I went to my first ever Mal­ice Domes­tic in 2013, and vot­ed for it to win as Best First Nov­el of 2012. Of course, I was sure I’d picked a lot of oth­er win­ners as well, but Low­coun­try Boil was the only win­ner I picked. Since I was sit­ting at one of the Hen­ery Press tables, I got a front row seat as the oth­er Hen­ery Press authors helped Susan Boy­er cel­e­brate.

Susan Boyer-Agatha winner

Susan Boy­er-Agatha win­ner

To do jus­tice to this book, I’m reread­ing it now, and enjoy­ing it just as much as I did the first time. Some things come back to me imme­di­ate­ly. I remem­bered the ghost (I love ghosts). When the lock­et turned up, I thought, aha! Oth­er plot points had slipped my mind. Oh, yes, now I remem­ber, I thought as a new dan­ger unfold­ed.

But this isn’t telling you about a great read. A Great Win­ning Read! Not only did it win the Agatha, but it won the 2012 Daphne du Mau­ri­er Award for Excel­lence in Mys­tery Sus­pense.

The low­coun­try of the sto­ry is a South Car­oli­na island along the Intra­coastal Water­way (Did I pass it on one of sev­er­al boat­ing trips, I won­der?) It’s a close-knit com­mu­ni­ty of friends, rel­a­tives, and often, ene­mies who may be both friends or rel­a­tives.

Liz returns to the island home­stead after her grand­moth­er dies. She learns it was mur­der. So, why would any­one kill a sweet old lady? There are con­spir­a­cies afoot, and a ghost who con­fers with Liz, look­ing to save the island from the bad guys.

Are the prob­lems bro­ken mar­riages, land grabs, long remem­bered slights? Or, none of the above? Although Liz runs her own pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tion agency in the city, her broth­er, the local police chief, does not want her help in solv­ing one mur­der and try­ing to pre­vent fur­ther may­hem.

Oth­er review­er com­ments: “I can see why this debut mys­tery is get­ting a lot of buzz.”

The para­nor­mal aspect adds to the sto­ry rather than tak­ing it over, strik­ing the per­fect bal­ance.”

A South­ern Mys­tery to be Savored!”

I agree with all of them.

Five Stars For JUST ADD WATER

I didn’t have to dig very deeply into my favorites list to come up with 5 star A Just Add Water by Jinx Schwartyz. I under­stand that this author is as at-home on boats as she is in front of her com­put­er writ­ing about Het­ta Cof­fey.

Het­ta doesn’t have a boat as the book starts. She has women friends, an ex fiancé, and a dog named RJ. Let’s just say, boy friends come and go, and their com­ing isn’t always good. Could be fatal, as a mat­ter of fact. But, oh, that does make for good read­ing!

The dead body doesn’t appear right away, but the action is non-stop. Het­ta is after a man, any man. Per­haps buy­ing a boat is the way to go. Then, again, per­haps not. But Het­ta has a boat, and she is intends to learn how to use it. (That’s a quote, more or less, from the author’s tweets, “Het­ta has a boat and she’s not afraid to use it.”)

This is my first Het­ta Cof­fey Mys­tery and won’t be the last! I read Jinx Schwartyz’ Land of Moun­tains before giv­ing it to a grand­daugh­ter and absolute­ly loved it. It is semi-auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal. I don’t think Just Add Water is, but it cer­tain­ly could be, if the child in the ear­li­er book grew up to get involved in mur­der instead of just into boats.

I’d like to quote from a few oth­ers who liked this book:

First, I must say this book was a chuck­le a minute—except for the parts not designed to elic­it chuck­les, of course.”

Whether you’re a fan of mys­tery, chick lit, or humor, you’ll be a fan of Het­ta Cof­fey and author Jinx Schwartz.”

Het­ta is brash and bold with a mouth that doesn’t have much of a fil­ter.”

There are many more reviews, but that gives you an idea. Almost all of them are pos­i­tive.

Just Add Water is avail­able here.

Cloud Nine

Cloud Nine

Of course, I know a lit­tle some­thing about boats as well. Just for kicks, I’ll add a pic­ture of the boat my hus­band and I sailed for a good many years. We didn’t find any killers, but we did run into a few killer storms. And, know­ing a lit­tle bit about boats myself, only made me appre­ci­ate Just Add Water even more.

Does knowl­edge of the sub­ject affect your read­ing? I know, if an author doesn’t get some­thing right that I do know about, that does affects my read­ing plea­sure. It down-right destroys it.

It’s All About The Book

5 star AStart­ing next week, every Mon­day will be my FIVE STAR READS day. I’ll talk about a book I’ve recent­ly read, or, maybe not so recent­ly read, that’s on my favorites list.

What makes a book one of my favorites? Ummm… could be because I stayed up late at night to con­tin­ue read­ing. Could be because I absolute­ly loved the main char­ac­ters, or the plot, or the sen­ti­ment, or… Per­haps I don’t know exact­ly what it is that tips an enjoy­able nov­el over to the superla­tive.

Like they say, my choice might not be your cup­pa tea. Even, on anoth­er day, it might not have been my favorite. But, rest assured, I’ll tell you what shiv­ered my tim­bers with each book. Like­ly it will be a mys­tery. But, not always. (I’m look­ing for­ward to list­ing a par­tic­u­lar mid­dle-grade nov­el.) I also like his­toric fic­tion, espe­cial­ly his­toric mys­ter­ies. A few romances res­onate with me (I have favorite authors). Often, a non-fic­tion will catch my eye.  I like com­e­dy in sto­ries, but I appre­ci­ate good sus­pense as well.

Along with my Mon­day with books, I’ll post anoth­er blog entry each Thurs­day. The sub­jects will be var­ied. I’ll include entries on both days to fol­low my mys­tery, his­to­ry, and spooks, oh my cap­tion. But, I’ll no doubt include some that could only be con­sid­ered ‘ram­bling.’

Come back on Thurs­day, and again on next Mon­day. Hope­ful­ly, I’ll have refined my five star reads logo. And, hope­ful­ly, I’ll find out how to reor­ga­nize my first page to include an option to fol­low my blog, to short­en the list of past posts, and, pos­si­bly, even include oth­er options.

What makes a book one of your favorites?

 

A New e-book

Two years ago I pub­lished A KNUCKLEHEAD IN 1920s ALASKA, aA Knucklehead in 1920s Alaska mem­oir of my father’s expe­ri­ences when he went to Alas­ka hop­ing to earn mon­ey for col­lege expens­es. I’ve now pub­lished it as a Kin­dle e-book.

Here’s the blurb: At age eighty-eight, William (Bill) Collins record­ed his adven­tures as a young man who trav­eled to Alas­ka to earn mon­ey for col­lege. In the 1920s he found adven­ture, but not much mon­ey work­ing in the rail­road yards, in mines, as a pearl div­er (dish­wash­er), and any­thing else between.

Dur­ing three sum­mers and one win­ter, Bill sur­vived hunger, earth­quake, stomp­ing cari­bou, and ici­cle frost. He learned about stopes, sluice box­es, pow­der smoke, and the Fes­ti­val of the Mid­night Sun. He found friends who would face a bear for him and ene­mies eager to knife him or smash him with a twen­ty-pound sledge. Bill had one lucky day and more than a few real­ly bad days.

This is the sto­ry of one hot-head­ed young man deter­mined to earn his own way. In his own words, he was a true knuck­le­head.

~ ~ ~

I’ve includ­ed a bonus short mys­tery at the end, “Yesterday’s News,” pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished by Futures Mys­te­ri­ous Anthol­o­gy Mag­a­zine. Even bet­ter, the entire e-book is free for those who pur­chase, or have already pur­chased, the paper­back from Ama­zon.

Now for a ques­tion: Do you know any inter­est­ing sto­ries from your par­ents or grand­par­ents that your chil­dren might be inter­est­ed in?

And anoth­er ques­tion: Have you ever con­sid­ered telling that sto­ry to a wider audi­ence?

And a hint: Those were the ques­tions I asked myself a few years ago, and with a bit of encour­age­ment, this was my answer.

A Tropical Thanksgiving

Kait Car­son lives in and writes from Flori­da. Her lat­est book, DEATH BYKait-cover BLUE WATER, was released by Hen­ery Press on Vet­er­ans’ Day 2014.  In it, para­le­gal Hay­den Kent dis­cov­ers a man’s body at 120’ beneath the sea. She thinks she is wit­ness to a trag­ic acci­dent. Instead, she becomes the prime sus­pect when the vic­tim is revealed to be the broth­er of the man who recent­ly jilt­ed her, and she has no ali­bi.

A year ago I spent Thanks­giv­ing in Flori­da, but this year I’m at home in Penn­syl­va­nia. Unlike my guest, that was only a some­time vis­it. But Kait remem­bers past Thanks­giv­ings and has her own way of cel­e­brat­ing in the trop­ics. Let her tell you about it…

Tomor­row is Thanks­giv­ing. Known to my fam­i­ly as Turkey Day, it was a favorite child­hood hol­i­day. Whether it was at home or away – there were two con­stants. A groan­ing table of food (fol­lowed by groan­ing fam­i­ly mem­bers), and cold weather—sometimes snow. SNOW, what has snow got to do with a trop­i­cal thanks­giv­ing? Well, noth­ing. But my child­hood turkey days were usu­al­ly spent in the north. Some­times on my great grandfather’s farm. He was a hardy soul who lived into his 100s. Fam­i­ly his­to­ry varies on whether it was 103 or 106. I doubt he knew. He was born in the ‘old coun­try’ at home on, yes, a farm. No records were kept, or no records that he kept were kept.

Turkey day on the farm in upstate New York was spe­cial. All of the din­ner was home­grown. Since both of my great grand­par­ents were immi­grants, keep­ing Amer­i­can hol­i­days, espe­cial­ly Thanks­giv­ing, was a reli­gion with them. Our loca­tion made snow a fre­quent vis­i­tor on Thanks­giv­ing Day.

Fast for­ward to my late teens. Here comes the trop­i­cal part. I fell in love with Mia­mi as a five year old when we vis­it­ed cousins. I nev­er fell out of love. When the time came for me to go to col­lege, it was UM or bust—Go Canes! Once plant­ed, my roots grew in the warm, sandy soil, and I’ve nev­er left. My adult real­i­ty has Thanks­giv­ings far removed from any­thing resem­bling snow, unless you count white sandy beach­es. Tem­per­a­tures of 80 and above are the norm. But it’s Thanks­giv­ing! It’s autumn. It needs to be COLD. I don’t know who invent­ed air con­di­tion­ing. I could prob­a­bly Google it, but that’s been my solu­tion since I moved here. Crank the A/C down to 60, pull on a sweater, turn on the oven and have at it. Turkey, brus­sels sprouts, yams (a South­ern sta­ple I might add), mashed pota­toes, green beans, sweet pota­to pie (nod to the South) and pump­kin pie. It all pours out of my oven and on to the table. I close all the drapes to block out the green grass and palm trees, light the fire­place, and voila, a cool, Flori­da, Thanks­giv­ing.

Hay­den Kent, the hero­ine of DEATH BY BLUE WATER, would nev­er under­stand. Hay­den is a Conch. Born and bred in the Flori­da Keys. Her idea of Thanks­giv­ing runs to Flori­da lob­ster stuff­ing (very good by the way) and ambrosia (also very good). She’s prob­a­bly going to spend her ear­ly morn­ing SCUBA div­ing to cel­e­brate hav­ing a day off, and then host­ing a din­ner for her friends Mal­lo­ry and Jan­ice, and maybe her boss, Grant. Any way she slices it, the pie will be from the bak­ery, and every­one will have a late night, a great time, and left­overs to go.

Come to think of it, that sounds like the per­fect turkey day. No mat­ter where or how you cel­e­brate, I hope you have a won­der­ful day.

Kait-photoBIO: Kait Car­son lives and works in South Cen­tral Flori­da. She shares her home with her pilot hus­band, a Chero­kee Six air­plane, eight res­cued cats, and three birds. So far, there is no par­tridge in the avo­ca­do tree. Kait is a rabid SCUBA div­er and can be found under­wa­ter most sum­mer week­ends. A self-styled warm water wimp, the div­ing stops on Colum­bus Day and the day trips by air begin. Vis­it her at www.kaitcarson.com, or on Face­book at facebook.com/kaitcarsonauthor.

Kait’s men­tion of her favorite foods, espe­cial­ly that ambrosia, reminds me of our fam­i­ly specialty—a neces­si­ty for any hol­i­day meal, offi­cial­ly known as apple pud­ding, but also known as red stuff. Do you have a favorite for hol­i­day meals?

Wild Fire Release Party and Settings Hunt

Ally-WildFire_Cover-453x680Wild Fire released Novem­ber 7

I’m hap­py to be part of Ally Shields’ Release Par­ty. She has a great event planned. Keep read­ing to learn all about it. Here’s Ally —

Thank you so much for being part of the  release par­ty and give­away for the sixth book in my Guardian Witch series!

(See con­test details at the bot­tom.)

Book Blurb: A vision. A lost tal­is­man. A dan­ger­ous jour­ney through time…

A month after their bond­ing, Ari and Andreas are still adjust­ing to mar­ried life when they learn the hard way that the O-Sev­en, the ter­ri­fy­ing and bru­tal vam­pire elders, still have them in their sights. A three mil­lion dol­lar boun­ty hangs over each of their heads, and there’s no lack of assas­sins eager to col­lect.

When the local seer has a ter­ri­fy­ing vision of the destruc­tion of Riverdale, it’s up to Ari—as usual—to keep every­one safe. Only this time, an ene­my from the past has bound her fire pow­ers, and the city’s string of arsons seems con­nect­ed.

Daron, the vam­pire prince in Toron­to, has infor­ma­tion that two of the vam­pire elders are on their way to Riverdale. Which can’t be good. Only a risky and unprece­dent­ed jour­ney through time can pro­vide the help they need. But that will leave Andreas to face the O-Sev­en alone…

Buy Links

Ama­zon:  http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Fire-Guardian-Witch-Book-ebook/dp/B00NWX6Y7K

Also avail­able at most online book­sellers

Book Trail­er on Youtube: http://youtu.be/nGO1wudi7xQ

Author Bio: Ally Shields was born and raised in the Mid­west, along the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er, and con­sid­ers her­self a “riv­er rat.” The set­ting and folk­lore of that area are often incor­po­rat­ed into her Guardian Witch series. After  a career in law and juve­nile jus­tice, she turned to full-time writ­ing in 2009. She loves writ­ing, read­ing and trav­el­ing. Way too often she can be found on Twit­ter. @ShieldsAlly

Author Con­tacts:

Web­site: http://allyshields.com

Blog: http://allyshields.com/blog.html

Face­book: http://facebook.com/AllyShieldsAuthor

Twit­ter: http://twitter.com/ShieldsAlly

Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6527209.Ally_Shields

Ama­zon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/allyshields
Oth­er books in the series:

Awak­en­ing the Fire (#1); Fire With­in (#2; Burn­ing Both Ends (#3); Blood and Fire (#4); Fire Storm (#5).

Com­ing Soon: Eter­nal Fires (Guardian Witch #7) (TBA)

Also by Ally Shields: Cross Keys, an Elven­rude nov­el (Octo­ber 2014)

Blog Tour GIVEAWAY: Nov. 7–10:  Read­ers and writ­ers always talk about char­ac­ters in books, but set­tings are almost as impor­tant, and they play a huge role in the Guardian Witch series. Wild Fire is no excep­tion, and this blog tour is reveal­ing sev­er­al set­tings that are the back­drop for major events in this new release. In fact, I think they’re so impor­tant that I’m run­ning a spe­cial con­test.

If you col­lect the names and num­bers of all ten set­tings, you could win your choice of three ebooks in the series (includ­ing this lat­est release) or a $15.00 Ama­zon gift cer­tifi­cate. It’s easy to do. Here are the rules.

Vis­it the blogs on this list — or enough to col­lect all ten set­tings — then email me at allyshieldsbooks@gmail.com by 9:00 a.m. EST, Mon­day, Novem­ber 10, 2014 with your com­plet­ed list. You will auto­mat­i­cal­ly be entered in the ran­dom draw­ing (two win­ners).

NOTE: A set­ting may appear on more than one blog, so be sure you have 10 dif­fer­ent set­tings before turn­ing in your entry.

Here is the list of par­tic­i­pat­ing blogs*:

AJ Locke
Angela Myers
Brin­da Berry
Car­men Ste­fanes­cu
Danielle Devor
Dani-Lyn Alexan­der
DL Richard­son
JL Buck
Joyce Lav­erne
Kath Marsh
Kirstin Pulioff
Lind­sey Loucks
Nor­ma Huss
Sue Roe­buck
Tina Gayle
Erin Moore

(*If you can’t find a post, return to allyshields.com for updat­ed links and blogs.)

Now for the set­ting: #10

Set­ting #10:  Vic­to­ri­an Man­sion — Andreas’s Vic­to­ri­an home in Olde Town, which Ari now shares. The well-pre­served res­i­dence and its spa­cious lawn is sur­round­ed by a six foot wrought iron fence and par­tial­ly lined with well-kept shrub­bery. It is fur­nished pri­mar­i­ly with antiques from the 1700s and 1800s.

Halloween Countdown-YA Ghost Reads

Vala-Ghost_Writer_300dpiIs there any­thing bet­ter than a ghost sto­ry for Hal­loween? Yes—two ghost sto­ries. One is mine, but first, let me tell you about Vala Kaye’s Ghost Writer.

Tech-savvy teen Malden Mont­gomery leaves New York City antic­i­pat­ing noth­ing but bore­dom when her artist-moth­er brings her along on a two-week vaca­tion to a fam­i­ly inn in rur­al Vir­ginia.

What Malden doesn’t expect is the owner’s 17-year-old son, Jack­son, who is total­ly to-die-for cute. But does she dare believe him when he tells her that her room at the inn may be haunt­ed by a young woman named Emi­ly, who died there more than 150 years ago?

Then Emi­ly begins to com­mu­ni­cate with Malden and she and Jack­son real­ize they have to find a way to help Emily’s ghost come back home or risk a spirit’s wrath if they choose to leave her lost in the dark­ness for­ev­er.

Vala Kaye — ABOUT THE AUTHORVala Kaye

Vala Kaye grew up in Texas as an avid read­er of sci­ence fic­tion, romance and his­to­ry. Her favorite writ­ers ran the gamut from Robert Hein­lein to Mar­garet Mitchell, and includ­ed side jour­neys with Louisa May Alcott’s “Lit­tle Women” and The Hardy Boys mys­ter­ies.

After grad­u­at­ing from col­lege with a dou­ble major in Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and His­to­ry, Vala now lives and writes in warm and sun­ny south­ern Cal­i­for­nia. She is addict­ed to movies, live the­ater, word games and sal­sa danc­ing.

In her first pub­lished YA novel­la, Ghost Writer, Vala explores what hap­pens when the human ‘spir­it’ meets com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy. Vala’s newest title is Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence, book #1 of “The Super­hero Next Door” series.

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Get in the mood for Hal­loween with this fast, fun YA para­nor­mal novel­la! “Ghost Writer” is now avail­able in print or as an e-book. Check it out at these online retail­ers: Ama­zon | B&N.com | KoboiBooks

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The sec­ond YA ghost read is mine, Cher­ish (A YA Ghost Mys­tery). You can read all about it here: The e-book is free for five days from Octo­ber 28 through Novem­ber 1 at Ama­zon. But, before you do any­thing, com­ment below. Maybe you will win Ghost Writer.