Is spring finally here?

Blossoms and Blue Skies

Fri­day the 13th of April is not an unlucky day this year. It’s the day when spring has final­ly arrived. Blue skies, coat-free weath­er, and the bloom­ing mag­no­lia near our front door. So I’m not look­ing for an ill wind, def­i­nite­ly!

I use that mag­no­lia tree rather like a cal­en­dar. What date did the first buds pop? When did they drop? (Noto­ri­ous­ly, they don’t last long.) Even, in the win­ter, when did snow fall and set­tle in clumps on the branch­es? In fact, before I knew it was a mag­no­lia (umm, I’m not even sure of that), one win­ter I began call­ing it our Pop­corn Tree after those clumps formed. My imag­i­na­tion turned them into pop­corn balls dec­o­rat­ing a Christ­mas tree. This year my pop­corn tree cal­en­dar tells me we have a very late spring. One year, at this time, not only had the buds dropped and scat­tered, but full-sized leaves cov­ered the tree.

To put a bit of writer/reader con­tent in this blog, let me point out that I’ve filled two para­graphs with spring blath­er. And, this morn­ing I filled even more para­graphs with the next scene of my some­time-in-the-future mys­tery, plus delet­ed two para­graphs I wrote yes­ter­day. So, that’s progress. Right?

Now for a ques­tion I real­ly want an answer or twelve to—are there any mys­ter­ies that have spring, or a change of sea­sons as a vital clue? Or even a pass­ing ref­er­ence? I scanned titles, but didn’t find a one. Do you have an answer?

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?

 

Under-the-Tree Good

Vin­nie Hansen, the very first guest I’ve had on this blog, is a retired high school Eng­lish teacher who lives in San­ta Cruz, Cal­i­for­nia. From the sto­ry she tells me, it sounds like she and her hus­band, artist Daniel S. Fried­man love to travel—and read.


In my fam­i­ly we have the expres­sion “under-the-tree good.” It refers to a

Vinnie-under treehot South Dako­ta after­noon when my broth­er Frank mixed up some orange Kool-Aid for us, his three younger sib­lings. He put ice cubes in it. We sat in a shady spot in the tree line behind the house and drank the bev­er­age from bright­ly col­ored alu­minum cups. The four of us agreed this was the best Kool-Aid ever. Thus orig­i­nat­ed the stan­dard of under-the-tree good.

How much dif­fer­ence real­ly could there be in one batch of Kool-Aid vs. anoth­er? In truth, a con­flu­ence of elements—heat, shade, kind­ness, ice-cubes—conspired to cre­ate the sen­sa­tion of under-the-tree good.

Exter­nals can also shape our expe­ri­ence with a book. I recent­ly read Cara Black’s Mur­der in the Latin Quar­ter while stay­ing in the Latin Quar­ter. The book became a blue print for a scav­enger hunt. My hus­band and I tracked down 61 rue Buf­fon, the scene of the crime.Vinnie-61 rue Buffon Across the street was the love­ly Jardin des Plantes. With­out the mys­tery, I may not have vis­it­ed, although this gar­den is every bit as beau­ti­ful and wor­thy as Jardin du Lux­em­bourg. But I had to go to the gar­den! Pro­tag­o­nist Aimée Leduc escaped through the grounds on her Ves­pa.Vinnie-Jardin des Plantes2

My hus­band and I walked up into the area where Hem­ing­way lived and Ver­laine wrote his poet­ry. At the Pan­theon where Vic­tor Hugo is interred, I looked about and thought, “This is where the sec­ond mur­der in the book takes place.”Vinnie-Aimée’s Vespa escape

Impor­tant scenes in the mys­tery involve inhab­i­tants of the cat­a­combs that run under Paris. My hus­band and I didn’t descend into these tun­nels. How­ev­er, on Pont de la Con­corde, two men, clear­ly not city work­ers, popped up out of a man­hole and crossed the bridge. I felt as though the book were com­ing alive in front of me! Even though Mur­der in the Latin Quar­ter is set in 1997, it is clear that peo­ple still haunt this under­ground world of Paris.

Even now as I fin­ish the book at home, I fol­low Aimée along the streets of Paris. When she turns onto Rue Cujas, I think, “We were there!”

All this makes read­ing the book an under-the-tree good expe­ri­ence.

My own Car­ol Sabala mys­tery series is set in what author Lau­ra Crum called a “faith­ful­ly ren­dered” San­ta Cruz. San­ta Cruz is a tourist-des­ti­na­tion beach town full of won­der­ful sights. Like Cara Black’s books, mine are set back in time, but many San­ta Cruz land­marks have not changed. I love the idea of a San­ta Cruz tourist pick­ing up one of my mys­ter­ies, new­ly re-released from mis­te­rio press.

While read­ing Mur­der, Hon­ey, maybe he or she will be inspired to eat a burger—meat or veggie—at Carpo’s. If the per­son is in town for our annu­al Open Stu­dios in Octo­ber, what fun to com­bine the trip with Art, Wine & Bul­lets set dur­ing the art event!

I would love to pro­vide an under-the-tree-good expe­ri­ence.


Vin­nie is in the process of updat­ing her Car­ol Sabala mys­tery series for re-release by mis­te­rio press, while also work­ing on the next install­ment in the series.

Art, Wine and Bul­lets by VINNIE HANSENVinnie cover-ArtWineBulletsEbook

A Car­ol Sabala Mur­der Mys­tery
The stran­gled body of a gallery own­er offers Car­ol an oppor­tu­ni­ty to cement her rep­u­ta­tion as a pri­vate eye. Instead, the inves­ti­ga­tion turns into a night­mare dur­ing which Car­ol unrav­els much more than a mur­der case.

Avail­able through Ama­zon, Barnes & Noble and her pub­lish­er mis­te­rio press.
Vinnie’s web site

 

New Reads — Cozy Mystery and More

I love new books. Scan­ning the cov­er, turn­ing the pages, fol­low­ing line after line of… Okay, I also love new e-books. Let me say, I love the plot, the mys­tery, the char­ac­ters, the whole expe­ri­ence of let­ting myself live anoth­er life for a few min­utes, or a few hours. So, when I hear about a new book writ­ten by one of my favorite authors, I’m ready to eaves­drop on a life that I’ve lived before. And, when I open a book by an author new to me, I’m ready to escape into a new real­i­ty. All this is pre­lude to intro­duc­ing a short list of books new­ly pub­lished, or about to be pub­lished next month. Per­haps some of these will intro­duce you to a delight­ful new read.

The first book on my list is an anthol­o­gy of short sto­ries — The Least He Could Do and eleven oth­er sto­ries. When I asked for titles of new books from my Sis­ters in Crime Gup­py chap­ter, I heard about this from the author of the title sto­ry, “The Least He Could Do,” Lynn Mann. Lynn’s sto­ry is sus­pense (and a good one). The oth­ers are a mix of genre’s, all a bit edgy. Avail­able as e-book.  Ama­zon site here.  Smashword’s site here.

The next three books are all cozy mys­ter­ies from authors with series I know and love. The first is Low­coun­try Bomb­shell by Susan Boy­er. Her first book, Low­coun­try Boil, won the Agatha this year for best new mys­tery, so you know this one will be good. Short intro — Liz Tal­bot thinks she’s seen anoth­er ghost when she meets Cal­ista McQueen. She’s the spit­ting image of Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe. Born pre­cise­ly fifty years after the ill-fat­ed star, Calista’s life has eeri­ly mir­rored the late starlet’s–and she fears the loom­ing anniver­sary of Marilyn’s death will also be hers. With the heat index approach­ing triple dig­its, Liz races to uncov­er a dia­bol­i­cal mur­der plot in time to save not only Calista’s life, but also her own.  Ama­zon site here. Pub­lish­er page here.

Lit­tle Black Book of Mur­der by Nan­cy Mar­tin is the newest from The Black­bird Sis­ters series, one of my favorites. It stars Nora Black­bird who may have been to the manor borne, but these days mon­ey is so tight, she can’t afford to lose her job as a soci­ety colum­nist. Short Intro — If any­thing can bring the blue-blood­ed Black­bird sis­ters togeth­er, it’s a mur­der inves­ti­ga­tion involv­ing high-soci­ety events, glam­orous peo­ple, and the dis­ap­pear­ance of a genet­i­cal­ly per­fect pig that may or may not be bask­ing in the sun at Black­bird Farm. They’ll all have to pull togeth­er this time, because if Nora can’t bring home the bacon, she might have to exchange her bucol­ic estate for a cramped walk-up. Avail­able in hard­cov­er, e-book, and audio­book.  Ama­zon page here. Author page here.

Rhys Bowen, the author of Heirs and Graces, writes three series that I adore. This title is the lat­est in the Roy­al Spy­ness mys­ter­ies that take place in 1930s Eng­land. Georgie’s posh edu­ca­tion didn’t land her a job, or a hus­band, but it does con­vince Her Majesty the Queen and the Dowa­ger Duchess to enlist her help. Short intro for this his­toric mys­tery — As thir­ty-fifth in line for the throne, Lady Geor­giana Ran­noch may not be the most sophis­ti­cat­ed young woman, but she knows her table man­ners. It’s forks on the left, knives on the right–not in His Majesty’s back… Avail­able in hard­cov­er, e-book, and audio­book. Ama­zon page here. Author page here.

I also have two mys­ter­ies from authors who are new to me. I’m look­ing for­ward to enjoy­ing their new series. Auld Lang Syne is by Judith Ivie. Short intro — This is num­ber six in The Kate Lawrence Mys­ter­ies. It’s almost New Year’s Eve, and Kate finds her­self at her 35th high school reunion, where she is con­front­ed by The Mean Girls, cir­ca 1978. Worse yet, she’s put on a lit­tle weight, and her high school steady is expect­ed to show. Should auld acquain­tance be for­got? If only that were pos­si­ble. Avail­able in paper­back and e-book. Ama­zon site here. Pub­lish­er page here.

The sec­ond of the new-to-me mys­ter­ies is Armed  by Elaine Macko From the cov­er pho­to of a young woman’s arm, I sus­pect this Alex Har­ris series is ‘armed’ with more humor than gun play. Short intro — When Alex Har­ris, own­er of the Always Pre­pared staffing agency, stum­bles over the body of Mrs. Scott, noth­ing will ever be the same. Along with her sis­ter and part­ner, Saman­tha Daniels, and their assis­tant, Mil­lie Chap­man, the Win­ston Churchill-quot­ing, M&M pop­ping Alex probes and plods through clue after clue try­ing to unrav­el secrets before the mur­der­er strikes again and real­ly ruins Christ­mas. Avail­able in paper­back and e-book. Ama­zon site here. Author page here.

What are your favorite cozy mys­tery series? Leave a com­ment and tell me. I’d love to hear about new ones.

Look for my new YA mys­tery soon — pub­li­ca­tion date ten­ta­tive­ly sched­uled for Octo­ber 2013. In the mean­time, the links to my two mys­ter­ies and one true adven­ture non-fic­tion are on my Books page here.