cozy

“Whispers Beyond the Veil” by Jessica Estevao

 

Book Cover - Whispers Beyond the Veil - Jessica Estevao

“Whispers Beyond the Veil” is the first book in the Change of Fortune series. Jessica Estevao has penned a self-reliant female character who thinks on her feet in risky situations and when cornered, often chooses the path most likely to keep her out of jail.

 

Jail? This is no ordinary gal growing up in a quaint family business. Ruby Proulx is a con artist, who makes a living by taking money from the gullibles passing through the circus tents. But, even with all the flimflam miracle cures and tarot card readings, she and her father are just getting by, in part because he drinks and schemes the earnings away. This is 1890s Canada, and when a dangerous scam results in a death, and her father disappears, she flees south to Maine to an aunt she’s never met.

 

Ruby’s arrival at her aunt Honoria’s hotel is a surprise to everyone except Honoria. Happy to repay Honoria for her kindness, Ruby continues to use her skills with séances and Tarot cards to help her aunt’s hotel survive. A hotel that features ‘spiritualists’ as the main attraction.

 

But, Ruby is caught between skeptics who feel that Honoria is scamming the visitors and stealing their hard-earned money and a wish to have a home she’s never had before. She’d like to fess up that she’s a fraud, but telling the truth may only put her on the street or put her aunt in jail. What’s a con artist to do?

 

The characters are either sweetly oblivious to the cons, in on them, or working hard to expose them. A handsome policeman, a psychic investigator, bodies popping up, and peeks behind the scenes of a con artist’s life, enrich the story, but when Ruby becomes a suspect in several crimes, she must guard both her heart and her skills to escape the snares.

 

With an inventive main character and Old Orchard Beach as the setting, this new series is off to a great start and “Whispers Beyond the Veil” has been nominated for an Agatha Award. Please visit www.jessicaestevao.com for more information about the Change of Fortune books as well as her other series, written as Jessica Crockett, also great fun.

 

 

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Author Profile: Barbara Ross

 

Headshot - BarbaraRoss

Barbara Ross has been entertaining us with the Maine Clambake Mysteries since 2013, when “Clammed Up” was first published. “Clammed Up” received an Agatha nomination for Best Contemporary Novel, along with several other honors. Readers loved its engaging characters set in the world of Maine Clambakes and summer tourism. Let’s not forget the delicious murder that set the tone for the dastardly deeds in every book since.

 

Julia Snowden, the heroine of the series, takes a leave of absence from her venture capital job in New York City to help the family business get back on its feet financially. Instead of dealing with spreadsheets and inventory, she finds herself having to solve a murder that occurs on Morrow Island, the site of the Snowden Family Clambakes. A murder that occurs before a scheduled wedding and reception can get underway. The police shut down the crime scene – which means the Clambake – and Julia must work quickly in order to get the business open again and keep the bank at bay. And, we’re hooked.  🙂

 

The books are (mostly) set in fictional Busman’s Harbor, Maine, and Ross does a great deal of research to support each storyline – including the character of the island itself. The Morrow Island of the series was created in Ross’ mind –  not based on any one of the 4400 coastal Maine islands – but after the series was well under way, a friend sent her the link to an actual island for sale that incorporated many of the features she had invented for her stories. Check it out and see if your imaginings match the real estate photos.

 

https://www.clapboardisland.com/photos

 

 

In real life, Ross lives part of the year in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, with her family, but does not run an inn. Her mother-in-law owned the Seafarer Inn for a number of years, and when she retired, Barb and her husband bought it to use as a summer home. There are no paying guests anymore. Barb shared that she can be seen busily writing away on the big porch in good weather.

 

When asked about her writing process, Barb said:

 

“I am emphatically not a morning person, so I do the ‘business of writing’–answering emails, blog posts, etc. as I enjoy my coffee in the morning. I write in the afternoons when I'm doing first drafts and with revisions, I can pretty much work all day.”

 

Barbara contributes to two blogging groups: Maine Crime Writers and New England-based cozy writers at Wicked Cozy Authors. Take a look at a recent blog post from the Wickeds, where she chats about her thought process for Morrow Island.

 

https://wickedcozyauthors.com/2017/02/13/island-time/

 

One of the many fun parts of the series is the food mentioned in passing as lunches, dinners, or snacks. The recipes for these mouth-watering sounding dishes are included at the end of each book. Several were created by Barb’s husband, Bill Carito. I suspect that Julia’s hunky boyfriend’s wonderful cooking skills are patterned after Barb’s husband’s substantial talent in the kitchen.

 

One of my favorites is the lobster mac & cheese – recipe at the end of “Clammed Up” – which I’ve made several times. Yum, yum, YUM!

 

Barb suggests two “very Maine-y” recipes:

Lobster Deviled Eggs

BarbRossDevilledEggs

http://mainecrimewriters.com/barbs-posts/lobster-deviled-eggs

 

Pumpkin Whoopie pies, the official state snack of Maine.
BarbRossWhoopiePieshttps://wickedcozyauthors.com/about/grandma-snowdens-pumpkin-whoopie-pies/

 

With its multi-dimensional ensemble cast, perfectly wicked guest villains, wonderfully researched plot lines, surprises galore, and the always fascinating look at life on an island dependent on outside cash to keep it going, we are happy to read as many Clambake mysteries as Barbara Ross can write. Book #6 is “Stowed Away,” coming in December 2017. 

 

 

Please pass the lobster and blueberry grunt. Hold the bodies until after dinner, though. 😉


Book Cover - Clammed Up

 

 

 

 

Read review of "Clammed Up" here.                                                

 

 

 

 

Book Cover - Musseled Out

 

 

 

 

 

                        

Read review of "Musseled Out" here.

                   

              

 

 

 

  Book Cover - Fogged Inn                                

 

 

 

Read review of Agatha nominated "Fogged Inn" here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For more information about Barbara Ross, her other books, and appearances, please visit www.maineclambakemysteries.com

 

 

 

 

 

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“Custom Baked Murder” by Liz Mugavero

Custom Baked Murder

 

Kristan (Stan) Connor is back in “Custom Baked Murder,” this time with more furry friends in residence and a love life that is heating up. Kristan is busy getting ready to open her long-anticipated pet café, with specially designed display cases, and new ideas to make both human and furry customers happy. She has two new backers for the business – one she’s happy about; the other she puts up with in order to realize her dream.

 

Her mother, ever detail oriented and still driving Stan crazy, is getting engaged to the Mayor and the big announcement will be made at a blowout party at the groom-to-be’s house. But the Mayor doesn’t show, and Stan’s irritating former colleagues do – along with her former fiancée. Talk about cringe worthy events. Oh, and there’s the murder at the party. Certainly, a memorable evening. And not in a good way.

 

The murder victim isn’t well-liked, so the question the police must answer is not who killed her, but instead, which one on the long list of enemies got to her first? Rumors fly and suspicions drive wedges into the small community, with several misunderstandings and family surprises thrown into the mix. Kristan must shield her mother from the press, while trying to prove her own former fiancée innocent. The overlapping story-lines are intriguing and keep the pages turning in this well-plotted mystery.

 

Including old friends and enemies in “Custom Baked Murder” adds a delicious twist. Sometimes we hope that the oldies (but baddies) will fade away from our lives forever, or that they might have changed, but wham! There they are, creating havoc yet again when least convenient. Mugavero captures this dynamic perfectly as she delivers the multiple red herrings.

 

Mugavero has expanded the relationships among the ensemble characters throughout the Pawsitively Organic series, evolving them in a natural way as time has passed. One gem of a character is Cyril, the reporter. Anyone who has ever met a small-town journalist will recognize the dogged chase after any detail that will make headlines. His shifts between investigation and bargaining for information are spot-on. And, then we have Stan’s hunky love interest, Jake, who keeps proving why he’s one of the good guys. The sisters have a larger role this time and fans will love that the series has become an engaging family affair.

 

Never fear, dogs and cats play important roles, including when Kristan throws a fund-raiser for a K-9. Mugavero continues to show us ways we can help the real-life animals in our lives. Happily, “Custom Baked Murder” includes more healthy pet recipes. The blueberry biscuits look tasty enough to be people food.

 

Don’t miss “Custom Baked Murder,” the fifth in the highly entertaining series.

 

Read my review of the Agatha nominated, “Kneading to Die,” here.

 

Read my review of “A Biscuit, A Casket” here.

 

Please visit www.lizmugavero.com for more information about Liz and her future projects, as well as her continuing work in Animal Advocacy. 🙂

 

 

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Top 10: The First Four Years of Nightstand Book Reviews

 

Book Cover - Cold Dish

The first four years of Nightstand Book Reviews delivered a wide range of books to my doorstep and to my email inbox. Right from the beginning, I have received more than 100 requests a month (once over 400) from writers and publicists and friends of writers and publicists to review the latest book they had to offer.

 

It has been a fun problem to have. The strategy was (and remains) to choose great reads to chat about and share with the thousands of Nightstand Book Reviews followers around the world. The books on the site are by and large fiction, and tell a well-plotted story involving nicely developed characters. The authors are a mix of bestselling writers of longstanding, and newbies to the field when I first met them. Traditionally published or ebook only? Both happily co-exist on NBR. Occasionally I highlight biographies, great cookbooks, and helpful gardening books. A new feature in 2016 was Author Profiles. You’ll see more of those in 2017.

 

Below is the list of Top 10 books reviewed on Nightstand Book Reviews over the last four years, listed in ABC order by author. These were the books that garnered the most interest on NBR from the worldwide audience during the four years. Six books on the list were the debut novels from those authors. Some powerhouse writers (long, successful careers with great popularity) mixed in with newbies? A good book is a good book.

 

All of these authors now have multiple books out. Click on the book title to read the review.

 

Lee Child – “The Killing Floor”

 

Robert Dugoni – “My Sister’s Grave”

 

Robert Dugoni – “The Conviction”

 

Sherry Harris – “Tagged for Death”

 

Sue Harrison – “Mother Earth, Father Sky”

 

Erin Hart – “Haunted Ground”

 

Tami Hoag – “Alibi Man”

 

Craig Johnson – “The Cold Dish”

 

Leigh Perry – “A Skeleton in the Family”

 

Andy Weir – “The Martian”

 

 

Have you read any of the titles on the list? Wildly different books to be sure, with thrillers, sci-fi, traditional mysteries, and cozies in the group. 

 

And soooo much fun to read.  🙂

 

Thank you all, kind readers, for being part of the Nightstand Book Reviews community during the first four years. Your comments and participation make me smile as I search for the next great read to share with you.

 

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Literary Cookbooks

 

 

bookcover-outlander-kitchen-cookbook

 

What cook can resist a great new cookbook?

Even better, what foodie/avid reader can resist a cookbook created by his/her favorite author?

 

The following twelve cookbooks have been recommended by the readers of Nightstand Book Reviews as part of their literary and/or cookbook collections. The cookbooks would definitely make a fun gift to a fan of any of the authors. There are some pretty famous writers in the mix and many of the cookbooks have been nominated for awards.  🙂  If you have tried any of the recipes, please let us know in the comments.

 

Click on the book title to learn more about the featured recipes.

 

"Cooking with Jane Austen" – Kirstin Olsen

 

"Food to Die For" – Patricia Cornwell, Marlene Brown

 

"Goldy’s Kitchen Cookbook" – Diane Mott Davidson


"Jan Karon’s Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader" – Jan Karon

 

"KP Authors Cook Their Books" – 11 Kindle Press authors

 

"Mystery Writers of America Cookbook" – Kate White, editor; famous mystery writer contributors

 

"The Cat Who Cookbook" – Lilian Jackson Braun

 

"The Cozy Cookbook" – Laura Childs & other bestselling cozy writers

 

"The Hemingway Cookbook" – Craig Boreth

 

"The Outlander Kitchen: The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook" – Theresa Carle-Sanders

 

"Yashim Cooks Istanbul: Culinary Adventures in the Ottoman Kitchen" – Jason Goodwin

 

"Winnie the Pooh’s Teatime Cookbook" – A.A. Milne
 

 

Happy cooking!  🙂

 


 

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“Just Killing Time” by Julianne Holmes

 

book-cover-just-killing-time

Ruth Clagan’s grandfather, a clockmaker, dies during a robbery in “Just Killing Time” and leaves his Massachusetts clock shop, the Cog & Sprocket, to her. A rift between them caused by her ex has kept her away from the Berkshires for five years and now she has been robbed of a chance to reconnect. Why would anyone do this to a lifelong member of the community?

 

To complicate matters, the business is a puzzle, the shop is a mess and Ruth must deal with the oddly massive inventory as well as her grandfather’s widow. It makes sense to sell the Cog & Sprocket and get on with her life, but does Ruth really want to? Why did her grandfather have so much inventory? Could it be the reason he was killed?

 

“Just Killing Time” is complete with small town politics, reunions with old friends, and beautifully written dialogue that makes you feel as if you could join the conversation and fit right in. The wonderfully diverse cast of characters made me yearn for the days of small towns and friendly neighborhoods, where everybody knows your name. There is a real connection to the past with Orchard’s grandfather clocks and clock towers and small businesses on Main Street. Ahhh… life as it used to be outside the metropolitan areas of the country, before big box stores and fast food joints.

 

I connected immediately with Ruth, a fellow coffee addict. 😉 Julianne Holmes’ richly drawn Clagan clicks as a character trying to begin again, sorting through her life’s complications, but adapting as she sees alternate paths to follow. How many of us are given the opportunity to go back home to something familiar when life has taken an unexpected turn? And this clockmaker is always late? A giggle of a quirk.

 

We learn a great deal about the fascinating world of clocks – how they function and what makes the business model succeed in a time where digital seems to rule our lives. Grandfather’s repair specialty was clock towers, which require a tremendous amount of skill to maintain. Coincidentally, I saw a TV show about Big Ben (the clock tower in London) at the time I had started reading “Just Killing Time.” There’s more to its operation than climbing the steps to wind the clock or replace the parts. Wind can catch at the hands, pulling at them and slowing down the time. Minute changes in the atmosphere can affect the clock time. When I picked up “Just Killing Time” again, I found that it wove technical information in with the clever plot, giving us a clear understanding of why the Clagans love the business they’re in.

 

The layered storyline in this Agatha nominated debut novel involves possible fraud, people with hidden agendas, a tug-of-war between those that want a more modern town and those who wish to create an historic district. Happily, there is the potential for a little romance with a suitably hunky barber. “Just Killing Time” also includes some deviously nasty characters who will do anything to get what they want, including murder.

 

The second book in the series, “Clock and Dagger,” has recently been released and you should make time to read both.

 

Please visit www.jahennrikus.com for more information about Julianne Holmes and her alter ego, J.A. Hennrikus.

 

 

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“Drizzled with Death” by Jessie Crockett

 

Book Cover - Drizzled with Death

“Drizzled with Death” opens as Dani Greene temporarily escapes the holiday mania afflicting her family. She catches up on work in the sugarhouse at Greener Pastures maple syrup farm, annoyed at being ignored at the age of 26. She is the youngest in the family, and at less than five feet tall, she finds it hard to be taken seriously, despite her business savvy that has transformed a family hobby into a thriving business.

 

Sounds like the start to a pleasant read about a young woman making her way through life in the small town of Sugar Grove, New Hampshire. More like a side-splitting read. During her musing, Dani is startled by a mountain lion peering at her through the sugarhouse window. Gulp. She calls for help, but the Fish and Game Warden sent out to investigate, Graham Paterson, doesn’t believe her. The mountain lion is long gone, the Fish and Game guy is smirking and she loses all credibility when he spies the wine glass. Yup, wine always makes me see mountain lions. How about you?  😉

 

If being dismissed by the Game Warden isn’t enough to make Dani spit maple syrup, the next day at the Sap Bucket Brigade annual fundraiser pancake breakfast, a contestant pitches face first halfway into the seventh syrup-dripping stack of pancakes. Death by pancake? I’d be pitched over after the second stack, but that’s just me.

 

Graham Paterson reveals that a truckload of exotic animals has been released and are running all over the area – caused by a talkative parrot. You have to read “Drizzled with Death” to find out how the parrot is involved. There are some really funny scenes that involve chasing wacky animals with nets and LOTS more.

 

There is a great deal to recommend in “Drizzled with Death,” not the least of which is a very engaging Dani, and the relationships with the ex-boyfriend and the Game Warden. Dani uncovers some skullduggery that affects the area, and particularly Greener Pastures’ livelihood. She needs to uncover the culprit/motivation before the family name is ruined and before she winds up dead herself.

 

There are zany characters with hidden agendas, decidedly wacky animals, and a clever subplot that will keep you intrigued to the end. Crockett has a witty way of turning a phrase that reminds us how funny life can be – after we have survived the crazy, of course.

 

Happily, there are also recipes at the end, including a concoction called “Who’d a Thunk It.” It’s a sandwich created with an apple, bacon, waffles and maple syrup. Me, oh , my, doesn’t that sound like a delicious combo?

 

“Drizzled with Death” is the first book in the Sugar Grove series. There are two later books, and hopefully, more to come.

 

Please visit www.jessiecrockett.com for information about Jessie Crockett’s other books as well as her work with the Wicked Cozys. 

 

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